VI-3. “Rice Transactions in Southern Vietnam under French Rule: Analysis of Vietnamese Newspapers” (R1 FY2019)

  • Project Leader : Ikeda Masahiro (Kobe University, Graduate School of Economics)

Outline of Research

This study traces the transactions and transportation of rice in local areas of Cochinchina under French occupation. Gathering colonial period data on Vietnam is challenging because they are now scattered across Vietnam, France, and elsewhere. Therefore, several Vietnamese newspapers at the CSEAS Library archives, which report the price of rice in different areas, are useful. These secondary data will be quantitatively and qualitatively examined to identify trends in transactions and transportation of rice to Saigon. This study focuses on how the sellers (landlords and peasants) responded in selling rice to merchants at rates imposed by the international market.


In the late 19th century and early 20th century, Southern Vietnam, known as Cochinchina, witnessed a dramatic growth in rice production and exports. Cochinchina’s rice export sustained Asia’s specialization in rice production through intra-Asian trade. Indigenous populations were primarily involved in the production, and Chinese merchants were involved in transportation, which led to a mono-export economy. Commercialization of rice also led to price alignment with the international market.

Although the fluctuation in the price based on international demand and supply is clear, the process of transaction between the producers and merchants remains vague. Previous research on transactions at rice mills located near the port of Saigon and the export of white rice reveals that the sellers, especially landlords, demonstrated severe elasticity in selling their products, which led to a temporary lack of storage at the mills when the price was low. This phenomenon suggests that local landlords who hoarded rice in their warehouses also displayed similar flexibility in sales; therefore, the quantity of rice export was affected by the prevailing price in the international market. However, owing to difficulties in gathering data scattered across Vietnam, France, and elsewhere, this hypothesis remains unconfirmed.

This study traces the transactions and transportation of rice in local areas by examining several Vietnamese newspapers located in the library of CSEAS archives that published the then prevailing price of rice. Moreover, other documents such as quarterly reports on the local economic and political situation by the chiefs of the provinces in Cochinchina will be examined to identify the nature of transactions.

Both quantitative and qualitative data explain how rice circulation in Cochinchina corresponded to demand in the international market. This study will therefore contribute to a better understanding of the socioeconomic responses to and impacts of free trade during economic transformation in Asia.


Nam Việt Tề Gia Nhựt Báo (Le journal de la famille annamite)
The Journal of the Annamite Family*, published during the late 1910s.

Nam Kỳ Kinh Tế Báo (L’information économique de Cochinchine)
Southern Economist*, published in the 1920s.