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Did Speculation Affect World Rice Prices?


  • C. Peter Timmer

    (Non-resident Fellow, Center for Global Development, Washington D.C., USA)


How much did speculation affect the formation of rice prices during the rapid escalation of prices in world markets late in 2007 and early in 2008, through what mechanisms, what will happen as these influences unwind, and how is the story for rice different from other commodities? To answer these questions, this paper addresses four separate topics, each linked to the others by basic mechanisms of price formation. Simple supply and demand models are a start. The difference between short run responses to prices changes, and those responses after full adaptation is possible in the long run, is crucial and the conceptual model highlights the importance of these differences for understanding current prices. History matters. But storage and price expectations also become important for storable commodities in the short run—the length of time the commodity can be stored—a year or so for rice. A model of the “supply of storage,” is used to understand the factors affecting price expectations, and price formation, in the short run. This model is very powerful in its ability to explain hoarding behavior and subsequent impact on prices. Next, an effort is made to understand empirically the impact of financial factors and actors on commodity price formation using very short run prices and Granger causality analysis, for a wide range of financial and commodity markets, including rice. Speculative money seems to surge in and out of commodity markets, strongly linking financial variables with commodity prices during some time periods. But these periods are often short and the relationships disappear entirely for long periods of time. The links between financial markets and commodity markets are not simple nor are they stable. Finally, the paper addresses the long-run relationship between prices of the three basic cereal staples, rice, wheat and corn (maize), since 1900. It is clear there has been a long-run decline in the prices of all three cereals. Despite this common pattern, however, and important cross-commodity linkages, price formation for rice has several unique dimensions that are also worthy of further study.

Suggested Citation

  • C. Peter Timmer, 2009. "Did Speculation Affect World Rice Prices?," Working Papers 09-07, Agricultural and Development Economics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO - ESA).
  • Handle: RePEc:fao:wpaper:0907

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jeffrey A. Frankel, 2008. "The Effect of Monetary Policy on Real Commodity Prices," NBER Chapters,in: Asset Prices and Monetary Policy, pages 291-333 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Trostle, Ronald, 2008. "Factors Contributing to Recent Increases in Food Commodity Prices (PowerPoint)," Seminars 43902, USDA Economists Group.
    3. Lester G. Telser, 1958. "Futures Trading and the Storage of Cotton and Wheat," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66, pages 233-233.
    4. Milan Brahmbhatt & Luc Christiaensen, 2008. "Rising Food Prices in East Asia : Challenges and Policy Options," World Bank Other Operational Studies 19521, The World Bank.
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    Cited by:

    1. Karikallio, Hanna, 2015. "Cross-commodity Price Transmission and Integration of the EU Livestock Market of Pork and Beef: Panel Time-series Approach," 2015 Conference, August 9-14, 2015, Milan, Italy 211832, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    2. Headey, Derek, 2011. "Rethinking the global food crisis: The role of trade shocks," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 136-146, April.
    3. Pedro Concei ‹o & Sebastian Levine & Zuzana Brixiova, 2011. "The Food Price Spikes of 2008/09 and 2010/11: Impacts and Policies in African Countries," UNDP Africa Policy Notes 2011-003, United Nations Development Programme, Regional Bureau for Africa.
    4. Derek Headey & Sangeetha Malaiyandi & Shenggen Fan, 2010. "Navigating the perfect storm: reflections on the food, energy, and financial crises," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 41(s1), pages 217-228, November.
    5. M. Bruna Zolin & Bernadette Andreosso O�Callaghan, 2010. "Rice price volatility: a dilemma for public policies in Asia and Europe?," Working Papers 2010_21, Department of Economics, University of Venice "Ca' Foscari".
    6. Nongnuch Tantisantiwong, 2013. "Price Transmission and Effects of Exchange Rates on Domestic Commodity Prices via Offshore and Currency Hedging," Dundee Discussion Papers in Economics 278, Economic Studies, University of Dundee.
    7. repec:eee:rensus:v:78:y:2017:i:c:p:503-516 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. M. Bruna Zolin & Bernadette Andreosso O�Callaghan, 2010. "Long-term cereal price changes: how important is the speculative element," Working Papers 2010_23, Department of Economics, University of Venice "Ca' Foscari".
    9. Bernadette Andreosso-O’Callaghan & M. Zolin, 2010. "Long-term Cereal Price Changes: How Important is the Speculative Element?," Transition Studies Review, Springer;Central Eastern European University Network (CEEUN), vol. 17(4), pages 624-637, December.
    10. Maurice, Noemie & Davis, Junior, 2011. "Unravelling the underlying causes of price volatility in world coffee and cocoa commodity markets," MPRA Paper 43813, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2012.

    More about this item


    Commodity price formation; speculation; world rice market; world food crisis.;

    JEL classification:

    • C22 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Time-Series Models; Dynamic Quantile Regressions; Dynamic Treatment Effect Models; Diffusion Processes
    • D4 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design
    • D84 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Expectations; Speculations
    • G13 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Contingent Pricing; Futures Pricing
    • L66 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Food; Beverages; Cosmetics; Tobacco
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • Q11 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Aggregate Supply and Demand Analysis; Prices

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