Posts Tagged ‘United States’

Rice Shortage: What the Fuck are we doing to ourselves!?

April 26, 2008

Vickie Wong of San Francisco buys rice at the South San Francisco Costco, which is limiting purchases. Chronicle photo by Kurt Rogers From San Francisco Chronicle by George Raine, Chronicle Staff Writer Friday, April 25, 2008 click to read more.     Global rice squeeze hitting U.S. consumers     The climbing global price of rice and other staples shows no sign of leveling off, given caps placed on exports and various supply-side squeezes. As a result, food experts predict hunger and poverty in poor nations along with a restricted supply of grains coupled with rising prices in this country.     The worldwide rice crisis lapped over into the United States this week when Costco Wholesale and Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club, the two biggest warehouse retail chains, limited the amount of bulk imported rice customers can buy. Sam’s Club said the restriction is due to “recent supply and demand trends.”     The shortage reflects restrictions on exports by major rice producers, notably India, Vietnam and Egypt, followed on Wednesday by Brazil, causing imbalance in world markets. These nations acted to ensure adequate domestic supplies amid rising world prices for preferable varieties of long-grain rice. Drought has contributed to the shortage, as has hoarding, experts say.     By comparison, there is an abundance of medium- and short-grain rice planted in California, the nation’s second-largest rice-producing state after Arkansas. California growers will harvest approximately 4 billion pounds this year, with 40 percent of the crop to be exported, the majority to Japan. California’s product, consistently among the state’s top 20 crops, is known as sticky rice and is used in sushi, paella, risotto, sake, beer, baby food, rice milk and pet food.     Globally, the rice shortage occurring amid sharply rising food prices across the board is having enormous consequences, as rice provides more than one-fifth of all calories humans consume. The shortage has led to food riots around the world, including deaths in Cameroon. Protesters chanting “We’re hungry!” caused Haiti to remove its prime minister.     “You are seeing the return of the food riot, one of the oldest forms of collective action,” said Raj Patel, a food policy specialist and visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley Center for African Studies. He noted that the Roman statesman Cicero was once chased from his house because he had food and the intruders didn’t.     “And that happens because people do not have access to food at prices they can afford,” Patel said. “That is why they take to the streets.”     In London this week, the executive director of the World Food Program, Josette Sheeran, warned that more than 100 million people will be pushed into poverty by a “silent tsunami” of sharply rising food prices.     “This is the new face of hunger – the millions of people who were not in the urgent hunger category six months ago but now are,” Sheeran said. “The world’s misery index is rising.”     In this country, the big retailers seem to be the first to curtail rice sales. Costco Wholesale said Tuesday that it is limiting quantities sold to consumers at some stores, including locations in the Bay Area. On Wednesday, Sam’s Club said it is limiting the sale of Jasmine rice from Thailand and Basmati rice from India and other imported long-grain rice to four bags per member visit.     “We are working with our suppliers to address this matter to ensure we are in stock, and we are asking for our members’ cooperation and patience,” said Kristy Reed, a Sam’s Club spokeswoman.     She said purchases of flour and oil are not restricted. The limitations on rice are on bags that are 20 pounds or larger.     Impact on restaurants     Restaurateurs are among those who buy rice at big-box retailers.

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