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July 9, 2008

Asean chief says no panic about rice crisis
The Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan on Tuesday allayed fears of a regional rice crisis, saying there is no need to panic as there is enough grain supply for East Asia.

At a press conference held here, Surin, who is in town for the Asean Science and Technology ministerial meeting, said soaring rice prices was merely caused by speculation and fear among traders and was not due to rice shortage.

"East Asia has a rice stock led by Japan and there is enough rice stock to take care of the region and to also share with the world in times of need," Surin said.

"The panic here is over. The price of rice has gone down. It may not be as low before and will never go back to the same price as before," he added.

Surin said Asean foreign, trade and finance ministers have already deliberated on food security for the region and discussed ways on how to address the increasing prices of commodities and oil.

"I think in the case of Thailand and the Philippines, there was an agreement that rice will be made available and in the case of Vietnam they have decided to lift the export ban because of the pressure heightened by fear and speculation," Surin said.

The Philippines is the world's biggest importer of rice for the year. The government has imported more than 2.2 million tons of rice at the height of global grain prices surge. ?

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