Wednesday, April 23, 2008

BAY AREA SHOPPERS ASKED TO LIMIT RICE PURCHASES

NBC 11 - The price of rice has increased dramatically in recent weeks due to crop failure overseas and resulting hoarding, NBC11 reported. And at least one Bay Area store is asking customers to hold back on their rice purchases. Costco has posted signs asking customers to follow their regular rice-buying habits.

The rice price increase is a result of a domino effect, NBC11's Noelle Walker reported. Drought in Australia led to a severe decline in rice production that in turn led the world's largest rice exporters to restrict exports. That spurred higher rice prices and hoarding in Asian countries..

Now in the United States, rice prices have skyrocketed. Son Tran owns Le Cheval Vietnamese Restaurant in Oakland. He said he's seen the price of rice go from $20 to $40 in a matter of weeks.

And Le Cheval's stockpiles are dwindling. Add to that, the price of vegetables has gone up 50 percent, and some of Tran's regular customers aren't so regular anymore.

Rice isn't the only food in short supply. The unleavened bread snack matzo, popular with Jewish families during Passover, is also hard to find. Grocers underestimated demand for the product and one of the main producers of matzo crackers had a problem with one of its ovens on the East Coast, which also shortened supplies.

TIMES UK Experts told The Times yesterday that prices of rice, wheat and vegetable oil would rise further. They also forecast that high prices and shortages - which have caused riots in developing countries such as Bangladesh and Haiti - were here to stay, and that the days of cheap produce would not return. Food-price inflation has already pushed up a typical family's weekly shopping bill by 15 per cent in a year.