Cyclone could hurt Myanmar rice exports: WFP

Sri Lanka's state minister of defence Ruwan Wijewardene (L) takes part in a press conference in Colombo on April 24, 2019. - A Sri Lankan security dragnet hunting those responsible for horrifying bombings that claimed more than 350 lives has scooped up a further 18 suspects, police said April 24, as pressure mounted on politicians to explain why no one acted on intelligence warnings. (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP) (Photo credit should read ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)

BANGKOK, May 6, 2008 (AFP) – The deadly cyclone that struck Myanmar devastated its main rice-growing region, and could threaten exports meant to ease shortages in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, the UN food agency said Tuesday.

Flooding, which poured damaging salt water into paddy fields, could create long-term food insecurity for Myanmar and other poor Asian countries, World Food Programme spokesman Paul Risley warned.

The full extent of damage to rice supplies cannot be assessed yet because parts of the country have been cut off by flooding and damage to roads caused by Cyclone Nargis, which the government says has killed more than 15,000 people.

But Risley said that any disruption of rice supplies could be devastating.

“This year, while other Southeast Asian countries have been putting in place export bans and cutting rice exports, Myanmar has begun exporting to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh,” he told AFP.

“So there are long-term concerns whether Myanmar can continue to maintain self-sufficiency and also whether they can continue commitments to other countries.”

Any effect on exports would be felt sharply in other Asian countries where there are millions living in poverty as global prices for rice hi