Wednesday, May 07, 2008

an inadvertent side effect to rising rice prices

With the world shortage of rice, you have Costco limiting the number of bags (from what I hear Filipinos have been hoarding bags to ship over to the Philippines). With Myanmar's paddies devastated by a cyclone, the rice prices may not come down any time soon.

However, I was reading in the Wall St Journal today, one effect of high rice prices is actually helping save one of the Philippine's wonders, the Ifugao Rice Terraces. The terraces have been in decline as the younger generation opts to live in the city and earn easier livings that way but also from giant 2 ft earthworms that they believe were introduced to the area in the 1940s from Malaysia through fertilizer. Many farmer's didn't have the resources to keep up with the worms which essentially make the mud swiss cheese and cause terrace collapse. It is said that 25% of the rice terraces were abandoned because of the inability to keep up with the land.

But with the price of rice tripling in the last year, farmers have additional resources to plug up the earthworm holes and find that the younger generation sees the climbing prices of rice and are postponing their moves to the city to help on the farm. Some farmers have even bought additional land to extend their rice producing acreage. They stay with the idea that if they farm, at least they themselves will never go hungry and they can sell off the extra.

Also with tourism on the rise, the younger generation finds it easier to stay on the farm while selling pictures while wearing the traditional garb overlooking the scenic view of the terraces.

They are also connecting with specialty sellers to market this aromatic regional varietal of rice as the niche market of specialized foods expands to a wider market worldwide.

Grant it there are the greater issues of world food production, but on another level, the crisis raises the status of what had always been seen as the lowly farmer and the importance of the farmer to the global economic systems.

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