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April 27, 2008

Brazil protects home rice supply, limits exports

Brazil announced April 23 it has temporarily halted rice exports to ensure domestic supply amid rising world prices for the grain.

Brazil grows more rice than it consumes and has a reserve that will safeguard the country's supply, Agriculture Minister Reinhold Stephanes said in a statement. Sales abroad will nevertheless be blocked to make sure the country has enough of the grain for the next six to eight months.

Several Asian countries recently suspended rice exports to guarantee their own supplies, causing an imbalance in world markets, Stephanes said.

"We will follow the movement of the principal world producers," Stephanes said. "With the favorable price, it's possible that there will be an increase in production and that the supply situation will be resolved next year."

Brazil will not meet recent requests by African and Latin American countries for shipments totaling nearly 500,000 tons of rice, he said.

The grain is a staple of the Brazilian diet


Brazil's Agriculture Ministry said it has temporarily banned exports of government-owned stocks of rice to guarantee domestic supply amid rising world prices, but other shipments will still be allowed.

The Agriculture Ministry had issued a statement Wednesday suggesting that all rice exports were being halted, but a ministry spokeswoman said April 24 the statement was poorly worded.

Rice farmers have not been asked to stop exporting and the government will "allow the market to follow its course as long as there is no risk of shortages," the spokeswoman said.

The ministry said the decision to ban exports of government rice stocks was sparked by a purchase request from some African nations. "We told them that we could not meet their request because we have to make sure that Brazil will not suffer shortages," the spokeswoman said. She did not know which countries had hoped to buy rice.

The ministry also said that on May 5 the government will auction 55,000 tons of rice from its stocks to keep domestic prices from rising from current levels, about US$17 to US$18 (€10.80 to €11.40) for a 110-lb. (50 kilogram) bag.

The ministry said the 2007-2008 rice harvest totaled 12 million tons, and government rice stocks currently stand at 1.6 million tons.


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