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Weekly NewsLetter
7 March 2011
    Vol.1 No.7

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The Editor's Corner


High food prices may persist
          Record worldwide food prices may remain high because the output response needed to ease supply concerns may take years, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently said.

Increasing incomes in developing countries have boosted demand for meat and dairy, requiring more grain for livestock feed and land for grazing animals, Thomas Helbling, an adviser for the IMF’s research department, and Shaun Roache, an economist, wrote in an article. Rising demand for biofuels and adverse weather also have tightened food supplies, the IMF said.

“Over time, supply growth can be expected to respond to higher prices, as it has in previous decades, easing pressure on food markets, but this will take time counted in years, rather than months,” according to an article published in the agency’s Finance & Development magazine.

The global food price index, compiled by the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), surged to a record in February as all food groups except sugar rose, the agency said. Rising food costs and corruption sparked political unrest across North Africa and the Middle East, ousting leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, the largest buyer of wheat.

“There’s a risk that the current price spike could persist for longer than the 2007-2008 experience,” Luke Mathews, a commodity strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia , said. “There are more commodities involved in this current spike and that means it’s going to take longer to rebuild the inventories of all those back up to what we would deem safer levels.” Global inventories for all grains will drop 13 percent before the next harvest, the U.S.

Department of Agriculture estimates. That’s the first decline since 2007. Surging food prices the following year sparked more than 60 riots from Haiti to Egypt. Increasing demand is causing isolated food shortages and accelerating inflation in developing countries even as it boosts farmers’ incomes and shifts planting strategies.

While stockpiles will decline, supplies of rice, the staple food for more than half of the world’s population, may be sufficient to avert a repeat of the 2008 crisis, Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist at the FAO, said

“Probably rice is the commodity which is separating us from a food crisis,” Abbassian said. “I’ve never loved rice more than now,” he concluded.


Top News from Southeast Asia

March 7, 2011


These were the most significant news stories published by Asean Affairs during the week of February 26-March 4..

Fitch revises Indonesian outlook to positive
Fitch Ratings upgraded Thursday Indonesia’s sovereign rating outlook to BB+ positive from BB+ stable mainly thanks to favorable macroeconomic prospects, paving the way for the country to secure investment grade in the course of one year.

Singapore's manufacturing output rises 
Singapore's manufacturing output grew at a pace of 10.5 percent in January from a year ago, according to data released by the Economic Development Board (EDB). The increase was more than anticipated.

Brackish water arrives early in Mekong Delta 
Salt water intrusion in coastal provinces in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta has occurred earlier this year than previous years, affecting thousands of hectares of rice.

AIRASIA X to appoint Y.B. Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz as chairman 
AirAsia X expects to appoint Y.B. Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz as the company's new non-executive, independent chairman this week.

Transportation on the Mekong urged 
Cambodia is pushing businesses to make greater use of the Mekong for transportation, after an agreement with Vietnam easing restrictions on river transport went into effect last year.

Thailand leads Southeast Asia in vehicles 
Half a world away from the cold streets of Michigan, General Motors is getting ready to roll its first diesel engine out of a recently opened factory in eastern Thailand. Nearby, Ford Motor is building a manufacturing plant and Suzuki Motor aims to start producing environmentally friendly cars at a new factory in 2012.

Vietnam trade in gold bars banned 
Gold bars will be banned on the free market and gold trading tightly controlled under Government Resolution 11/NQ-CP recently issued to stabilise the macro-economy.

Biomass power for Malaysia 
Felda Global Group and Tenaga Nasional Bhd have formed a 60:40 joint-venture company, FTJ Bio Power Sdn Bhd to invest RM120mil (US$39.3 million) to set up a plant that will generate electricity using purely oil palm empty fruit bunches (EFB).

Arcelor acquires Thailand’s G Steel 
Arcelor Mittal, the world's largest steel company, will become the largest shareholder of Thailand’s financially troubled G Steel Plc after agreeing to pay US$250 million to acquire 40 percent of the SET-listed hot-rolled steel manufacturer.

Philippines central bank hints interest rate hike 
The Philippines Central Bank, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), on Wednesday took on a more hawkish stance, signaling a possible increase in its record-low interest rates in the near term amid concerns over rising inflation.

Asean agrees on rice reserves  
The 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their dialogue partners, China, Japan and South Korea have agreed to establish rice reserves in each country.

Thailand 3G auction planned 
Thailand's new telecommunications regulator officially has no members yet but it has begun work on two master plans for the industry and national frequency management.

India-Asean trade to grow 40 percent 
India is a fast emerging as a key trading partner for the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), with both parties benefiting from each other’s relative strengths.

Indonesia moves ahead on IPOs 
Controversy generated during recent initial public offerings by state companies has not stopped the government’s plans to list even more of its firms.

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