Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rice Rations Indicate Further Trouble for Food Economy

Following a spike in rice futures, several wholesale retailers, including Sam’s Club, Costco and online distributor Patel Brothers, have announced that they will ration customer purchases of imported specialty rice. The cost of rice has risen 68% since the start of 2008, prompting business owners and individual consumers to stock up before further cost increases. Recent food cost inflation has left few food staples unaffected, but the rice spike, Reuters claims, has been exacerbated in part by product loyalty, which, for many consumers, takes precedent over buying domestic products. In an attempt to insulate local markets from further food shortages South Asian rice exporters have been reserving more rice for local sale, thus limiting U.S. imports. Long-grain imported varieties, including basmati and jasmine, are the only rice currently under ration, while domestic supplies remain stable. "California's had a pretty good crop, but basmati and jasmine consumers have a history of not switching," said U.S. Department of Agriculture rice specialist Nathan Childs. "They could always have bought cheaper Calrose. But they don't." U.S. rationing is indicative of an uneasy month for international food markets, following deadly food riots in Haiti and Yemen at the beginning of April.


Michael Paone said...

I wonder if every rice producer stopped bleaching and processing rice, whether that would affect the overall prices..

I know that they bleach it and remove the bran to allow for longer storage and cheaper transportation. But it seems as if, if we didn't grow for commodity-sake, less storage and processing would make rice production a much less expensive activity?

What is NYCCAH's stance on rice?

NYCCAH said...

I think yes, ideally, a minimum of rice processing combined with renewed interest in buying domestic varieties would help combat shortages. The problem here is that most rice-processing occurs in the US: a process that is not economic efficient, but one which (of course) profits the US. Also, US policy requires rice to be vitamin-enriched, which requires another step of processing.

I think the first step in this process is to promote domestic varieties: a tactic which would at least combat the economic waste associated with importing raw rice and the tenuous supply of asian varieties.

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