No Grain, Big Pain

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Pavel Rahman / AP

Women line up to buy rice in Dhaka, Bangladesh

At around 5 p.m. on April 2, local police and officers from the Philippines National Bureau of Investigation descended on a four-story warehouse in suburban Manila. They were acting on a tip-off about possible illicit activity. But the agents weren't searching for drugs or knockoff Rolexes. They were looking for rice. The inspection was part of a nationwide effort to nab profiteers who, taking advantage of sky-high prices for Asia's most basic food, are suspected of repackaging government-subsidized rice and reselling it at higher market rates. Officers have had some success, discovering 27,000 bags of rice at one warehouse,...