Rice? Is all the rice gone yet?

If you read, hear and/or watch the news these days you might get the impression that America is in the midst of a major riceless crisis. Big retailers such as Sam’s Club and Costco have restricted rice sales although those restrictions would hardly affect an American family of four or even an illegal immigrant family of 21 to a household.

It, a supposed shortage of rice is all “rice fluff,” says the article below from Texas AgriLife Extension Service writer Kathleen Phillips:

COLLEGE STATION – Reports about shortages of rice in the United States probably apply only to several imported varieties, and definitely not to the domestic supply of the popular grain.

This week’s news that two large box retailers in the United States were limiting customer purchases of rice was shocking in a nation where food shortages are rare.

Retailers Sam’s Club and Costco reportedly limited bulk sales of some varieties of rice – all of which are imported from other countries – in some stores across the nation, according to the Associated Press.

But the reason behind the limits and the facts about rice supply aren’t in sync, according to Dr. Mark Welch, Texas AgriLife Extension Service agricultural economist.

“Rice markets have been roiled by reports of trade restrictions by large rice exporting countries India, Vietnam, and Brazil and reports of rice rationing in the U.S. by major food retailers Sam’s Club and Costco,” Welch said.

Rice supplies are at relatively low levels, but the surge of panic buying and rapidly escalating prices is not supported by supply and demand fundamentals, he noted.

“Rice is an important staple in the diets of over half of the world’s population. Any price increase on persons with limited economic resources is a hardship,” Welch said. “The recent surge in prices has severe consequences for those who struggle daily for adequate nutrition.”

Welch said per capita consumption of rice has not increased in the last several years. Demand for corn and soybeans is increasing largely due to biofuels and feed use, but wheat and rice demand are basically unchanged.

Welch pointed out these facts about the rice supply:

– People in the U.S. eat about 4 pounds of rice a month. That’s a total of about 10 million hundredweights a month in the nation.

– The U.S. has about 104 million hundredweights in supply right now – a 10-month supply.

– And the new U.S. crop will be harvested beginning in September, only about five months from now, and should replenish supplies.

Down here in Texas Rice Country, people aren’t in much of a panic either. A Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise article today noted that local rice growers are getting calls from folks whom they had not previously heard but otherwise the domestic rice supply seems to be in a pretty good condition.

Still, when you hear the words “food shortages” bandied about it kind of leaves an unease with you of the type one feels when they walk through high weeds after seeing a sign that says: “Watch Out For Rattlesnakes.” With the price of oil and gasoline through the bazoonga (whatever that is) and inflation rearing its ugly head and talks of that dreaded “R” word, recession, one gets paranoid about practically every little thing. Paranoid? I’m not paranoid. Who thinks I am paranoid? Oh my.

With knowledge that the domestic rice situation is stable at least for now maybe we can sit down this evening with a good old bowl of rice and not worry too much that we need to start hording our food supply. Of course, I will be eating a baked potato.

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