Solomon Islanders may have to brace themselves for what experts say could be a longer spell in the high prices of rice.

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has revealed that the rice production in Asia, Africa and Latin America will reach a new record level in 2008, warning that world rice prices could remain high in the short term, as much of the 2008 crops will only be harvested by the end of the year.

"World paddy production 2008 could grow by about 2.3 percent reaching a new record level of 666 million tonnes, according to our preliminary forecasts," said FAO rice expert Concepcion Calpe.

In recent times the prices of rice have skyrocketed by around 76 percent between December 2007 and April 2008, according to the FAO Rice Price Index. In an attempt to avoid food scarcities in their own countries, major rice exporters have recently imposed export bans, taxes or minimum ceilings.

"These measures further restricted the availability of rice supplies on international markets, triggering yet more price rises and tighter supply conditions. At the moment, only Thailand, Pakistan and the United States, among leading exporters, are exporting rice without any constraints," Calpe added.

Calpe said that other factors such as the prolonged monsoon season and the constant increase in the price of fuel may also influence the price of rice in the short term.

In an attempt to soften the effects of the high price of rice the government recently reduced its tax on rice, which, according to expert opinions, may not have much effect on the price consumers pay. "Prices are expected to remain extremely firm, at least until the third quarter of 2008, unless restrictions on exports are eased in the coming months," Calpe said.