Vietnam rice prices surge to catch-up with world amid surplus production

HO CHI MINH CITY, April 28, 2008 (AFP) – Vietnam’s government Monday said the country has sufficient rice stocks and threatened to punish speculators who hoard rice for profit after price surges triggered a run on the staple grain. Many supermarkets and street stalls quickly ran out of rice in Ho Chi Minh City at the weekend as thousands of consumers, worried by rumours of looming shortages, queued to stock up on rice, further driving up retail prices.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in an urgent message to all cities and provinces said that Vietnam, the world’s number-two rice exporter, has enough stocks to meet domestic and export demand amid record global rice prices.

The premier, whose government has been battling double-digit inflation driven by food and energy prices for months, warned traders of “severe punishment” if they hoard rice and speculate on the commodity for profit.

The government “strictly forbids organizations and individuals without function to trade food from buying paddy and rice for speculation,” said an official statement, following reports that investors had bought up rice stocks and refused to sell them while waiting for prices to climb even further.

The warnings came after sudden price i