Arthur Yap, the Filipino agriculture secretary, said the government had asked the World Bank to use its stature and influence to talk to supplier countries.

 

IN VIDEO


Philippines battles rice crisis

"Everyone seems to be afraid to release it [rice] into the international market. It's going against pricing," he told local television.

 

"We need to convince them that they must release the flow of supply."

 

The Philippine government has announced plans to introduce "rice access cards" for the country's poor to buy subsidised grain in a bid to stave off an escalating food crisis.

 

UN response

 

Global food crisis


UN says soaring price of basic foods such as rice and cereals could affect around 100 million of world's poorest people

Global rice stocks have halved since hitting a record high in 2001 while demand is continuing to rise

In Asia rice prices have almost tripled this year alone

Financial speculators, rising populations, floods, droughts, increased demand from developing countries, and removing crops from the food chain to produce biofuels have been cited as factors

Price rises have led producing nations to enforce export restrictions, further putting the squeeze on supply, especially in countries relying on imports

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, is on Tuesday meeting the heads of 27 international agencies including the World Bank, the World Food Programme and the World Trade Organisation in the Swiss city of Berne to co-ordinate a response.

 

Ban has urged world leaders to discuss ways to improve food distribution systems and production.

 

The main focus would be to ensure that food aid reaches those desperately affected by the surging prices of wheat, rice, dairy products and other staples, according to officials familiar with the closed-door session.

 

Countries such as India and Vietnam have blocked the export of rice – a staple food for more than half the world's population – to guarantee that domestic supplies remain affordable.

 

The price of the world benchmark, Thai 100 per cent B grade, has nearly tripled since last year.

 

But Thailand, the world's largest rice exporter, says it has managed to improve supplies and the market price is expected to drop by 20 per cent "even if the bans by India and Vietnam remain".

 

"Crop arrivals are much better than ... three weeks ago," Korbsook Iamsuri, the secretary-general of the Thai Rice Exporters' Association, said on Monday.

 

Experts have linked the global food crisis to higher fuel costs, the use of crops for biofuels and speculation on global commodity markets.