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Rice crisis?

I was reading about the rice crisis in China, Phillipines, and other asian countries.

Then I go to my Asian grocery store and all the rice are sold out! All the 50 lbs bags are gone and the price went all the way up to $50 a bag! Almost double the price from when we bought it in the beginning of the year. We are in Northern CA.

A lot of the people that I know are starting to hoard the rice. They are going out of the city and buying 20 to 30 bags of rice, because they are afraid of the price of rice going out, and worst, not enough rice to go around.

Rice is a very important part of the meal for Asians. When we hear that there is no rice available, we will start to worry or panic.

Is this happening anywhere else?

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  1. It's happening in Asia. At least there's no protests and riots here. On a side note, wheat flour prices have also doubled in the U.S. recently.

    http://edition.cnn.com/2008/BUSINESS/...
    http://www.cnbc.com/id/23992438

    BTW, 20 bags of rice??? That's nuts.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ML8000

      The price of almost every food is going up and up, although every time I post about it here it gets deleted, as if I was spreading a rumor. There are years-long droughts going on in other parts of the world, and a lot of countries that didn't eat lots of meat are now eating as much as anyone else, the animals are fed grains so who knows if there's enough to go around . I'm on the wholesale end of things, and have seen this coming for months now. We're probably have to get used to it for the time being and adjust our menus/budgets accordingly.

      1. re: ML8000

        Yes, 20 bags!

        I was shocked too. I was told that the price of the rice was going up each day! It went from $28/ bag to $30. Then a week later, it jumped to $45. Now we are at $50 a bag.

        I think people are starting to panic and buying all the rice they can get their hands on, and the stores are just raising prices because of so much demand and no supply!

      2. My husband sells rice and wheat in bulk, and there's no question that prices have risen dramatically, due to both weather and geopolitical reasons. Certain countries that are usually exporters are therefore now limiting or eliminating exports, leading to further price increases. Also, rising fuel prices, and demand for freight (i.e., vessels to ship commodities), contribute to rising food commodity prices.

        Saw these articles today:

        http://online.wsj.com/article/SB12081...

        http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/fb068fd0-06...

        http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/bd418eda-09...

        5 Replies
        1. re: MMRuth

          A piece from today's NYT - http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/15/bus...

          Forgot to mention - my husband that the price of wheat, per ton, has gone down almost 15% this past month.

          1. re: MMRuth

            The price of pizza flour has gone down too, everybody's wondering why.

            1. re: coll

              I did see this article in the Times - http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/13/bus...

              It may take awhile though for declining bulk wheat prices to filter down to wholesale/retail flour prices.

              1. re: MMRuth

                Wholesale, depending on how much everyone stocked up in advance, since nobody thought it would go down again! Sorta like the stock market. And rice.....But retailwise, you know the pizzerias aren't going to lower their prices once they raise them, everything's too unstable now.

                BTW, every newspaper I've seen has an article regarding this

                http://www.easthamptonstar.com/dnn/Bu...

                1. re: coll

                  Yes - I'm amazed at how the issue has exploded in the media of late - new article on rice today.

                  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/17/bus...

        2. I know a lot of people who hoarded rice, even before the increased prices. My parents will buy out a store if they see a really good sale. Another family I know used to always have enough 50 lbs bags of rice around to have permanent rice bag furniture in the basement (the infamous rice bag sofas - not so comfortable, but hey it was a place to sit). If anything, the rice hoarders I know have stopped buying rice because they have a bit of a cushion in rice stores already, and I know they are going to balk at paying these kind of prices for rice. They'll wait it out until the crisis is over. (But they may have to buy some furniture in the meantime)

          3 Replies
          1. re: moh

            Start eating more potatoes.. and complaining about the enormous subsidies we are giving to ethanol production.

            1. re: grant.cook

              That's being kind of glib. What if someone told you to stop eating meat and start eating tofu?

              1. re: Phaedrus

                Stop eating meat and start eating tofu.

          2. I'm sure many 'hounds of Chinese descent will recall the old saying, "Eat potatoes...go back to China." According to Mom, rice used to be MUCH more expensive than potatoes, so the Chinese family that ate potatoes instead of rice saved enough to go 'back home'. Maybe those times are back!

            1 Reply
            1. re: ricepad

              I'm sure at one point in U.S. history the saying was, "Go back to Ireland and eat more potatoes." Sorta like ranchers saying eat more beef...EF the heart disease.

            2. I'm working for a hotel in Bhutan, and our purchasing department just sent out warning of a shortage for an indefinite period, and a request to stock up and be conservative in consumption. Lots of rice is grown here, but I don't know if it is enough to support the population or if we import rice from India. India is curbing exports except to Bangladesh and except of basmati. The rice season has just begun, so it will be months before the new crop is harvested, could be a problem if this lasts through the summer. The average Bhutanese portion of rice at lunch is about 3 or 4 cups, they eat a LOT of rice - I don't know what people would do if we ran out (besides be very unhappy).

              6 Replies
              1. re: babette feasts

                Bhutan has generally produced enough rice to be self-sufficient. Much is produced in the Terai; and the Bhutan - India border there is pretty porous. A less than formal rice trade can move in either direction.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  India decided to be a gracious neighbor and lift the ban on imports to Bhutan - if they have enough to feed a billion people, i guess they can spare supplemental rice for 700,000. Kuensel says we import 50 metric tonnes, use about 70 of what's grown here, and export 100 metric tonnes of the local red rice. So Bhutan does produce plenty, but is exporting a pretty significant share.

                  http://www.kuenselonline.com/modules....

                  One of the other chefs said Australia is only producing 2% of its rice potential due to drought? Sounds pretty extreme.

                  And I recall reading that palm oil is also in short supply and getting very expensive, another staple and source of calories for a couple billion people.

                  Now if we can only start exporting dog meat to our poor neighbors who can't afford meat because rice prices have gotten so high... (For anyone who hasn't been here, Bhutan has a serious stray dog problem. As Bhuddists, they refuse to round them up and kill them, and resources for sterilization are minimal at best. The dogs killing each other and getting hit by trucks are the only population controls.)

                  1. re: babette feasts

                    Kuensel says that imports were 50,000 tons and production was 67,000 tons. The production figure seems low. Bhutan is not included in FAOStat! Estimated production 20 years ago was in the 90-100,000 ton range. Yields have increased since. Much of the rice from high terraces is consumed locally and may or may not have been represented in the stats.

                    The drought has hit Australia very hard. Rice lands there are also being converted to grow grapes.

                    Those Bhutanese city dogs are too skinny to eat.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Did you see the NYT article about Australia?

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        I just got back from Nicaragua where I was out of touch. My NYT online entries await until after I stamp out a bunch of brushfires. Please send me the link. Fat dogs in Bhutan?

                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          Kuensel may have been off in their numbers, not exactly NYT, after all.

                          I'm not saying the dogs are fat or remotely worth eating, world hunger would have to get a lot more desperate before that's an option!

              2. Anyone know how much of a typical Asian diet is compromised of rice calories?

                  1. re: tatamagouche

                    I just saw a piece about the Sam's Club and Costco rice limits on the national news last night. Not being big rice eaters, we had no clue until right then.

                    I guess pretty much all crops are being affected. Last week I read an article about crop failures in hops and barley leading to a rise in beer prices, and Boston Beer Company, maker of Sam Adams, even gave some of their reserved hops stores to smaller craft breweries in a lottery. The smaller brewers were having a hard time getting hops at any price.

                    http://www.newsday.com/business/ny-bz...

                    http://www.samueladams.com/promotions...

                    1. re: romansperson

                      This happened even before the crop failures. People are plowing under their hops and barley crops and planting corn to feed the ethanol production. My friend who is now responsible for commodities at a major American brewer was complaining about a few million extra bucks they have to spend this year because they hadn't budgeted for the sharp increase in raw material cost.

                  2. Some people seem to be over-reacting. The big production hit is drought-related in Australia. The same drought has caused major losses in Australian wheat production in the last two crop years. Australia had been a material exporter of both grains.

                    United States rice production is in decent shape with production expected to rise by 3 to 5 percent this year according to a story on money.cnn.com today: http://money.cnn.com/2008/04/24/news/...

                    "David Coia, spokesman for the U.S.A. Rice Federation, a trade group that represents the domestic rice industry, offered a similar assessment.

                    "There is no supply crunch for rice in the United States," Coia said. According to Coia, domestically produced rice makes up 88% of the U.S. market. And that's only half the crop - the other half is exported.

                    "The bottom line is that there is plenty of rice in the U.S. and there's no need to panic," Coia said."

                    3 Replies
                      1. re: toodie jane

                        In fact, I should think it's least about us, rice not being our staple...

                        1. re: toodie jane

                          This wild hoarding surge is in the United States and is a classic case of hoarding disrupting the supply chain when there is no real shortage.

                          Most rice is consumed in the country of production or adjacent countries, so the amount in true world trade is a small percentage of total production. The production decline in Australia has a disproportionate impact on the supply of externally traded rice and may be permanent to the extent that former rice growers have sold water rights to grape producers. The real whammy is in poor countries where rice is a staple but that do not produce rice at all or produce rice well below domestic needs. These countries could barely afford enough rice before the price increases.

                          The projection of increased Unites States rice production this year is interesting because soybeans compete with rice for crop acreage in one of the two major areas of rice production in the United States: Texas and the states bordering the southern Mississippi River.

                      2. Interesting non-mainstream media discussion of the cause of the problems in Haiti:

                        http://www.democracynow.org/2008/4/24...

                        (video or audio available)

                        1. I don't eat that much rice, but I am bringing in another 10 cases of wine in case that gets in short supply :)

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: duck833

                            I'm with you! Whenever a snowstorm is predicted, I don't worry about bread and milk; I make sure i have enough wine.

                            I get the feeling that media coverage is sensationalizing these shortages. I rarely eat rice and after watching the news, I feel like i should clear out space in the basement for a 50 lb sack.

                            1. re: stolenchange

                              Funny. When I first heard about this on the news last week I thought "I had better go buy more rice" then my second thought was "Hey, I already have a 20 pound bag of white basmati and a 10 pd bag of brown basmati in the basement" and it is only my husband and I!! I like the idea of stocking up on wine though!

                          2. In the U.S., it's just panic buying. In poor countries that consume rice as their primary food, it's a big deal indeed. Domestic rice is plentiful, and Americans don't really even eat that much.

                            The Daily Show had Rob Riggle building a rice castle in his front yard. When asked how he could eat that much rice, he said, "Eat? Hey, one bag is for a wedding I'm going to next week and the rest is for my rice castle."

                            Getting hold of good basmati and other imported rices is going to be tough for the time being, I bet.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Pete Oldtown

                              Americans don't eat a lot of rice but we sure do consume a lot of gas and oil. Someday Rob Riggle will have to ferment his rice castle to produce gas for his car.

                            2. Interesting topic w/ wide ranging aspects. My contribution for reading about the subject:

                              http://www.economist.com/world/intern...