Living in Consciousness ~ Indi(r)a’s Food and Garden Weblog

Rice Shortage

Matta Rice
Matta Rice (Red Rice from Kerala&Konkani Regions of India)

Is it for real?

The hype, is this due to low production, or an election year, market-induced scam? What do you think?

Right now, I have only about three pounds of Kerala matta rice at home. No basmati and not even Sona Masuri. Planning to buy one bag each this weekend.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Zen (Personal) (Friday April 25, 2008 at 5:21 pm- permalink)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

37 comments for Rice Shortage »

  1. I think it’s a combination of both.
    I also went bought three bags of parboiled rice last week from our Indian grocery. We are a rice family, even my children demand rice more than bread and roti.

    Comment by Ramani — April 25, 2008 @ 5:28 pm

  2. Well.u r rite..the other day i went to this indian store in CA and they said that they are allowing only one bag per one u better rush to the store..

    Comment by Meghana Reddy — April 25, 2008 @ 5:41 pm

  3. Same story here in my area. Indian store is thinking of limiting 1 bag/customer.
    I do think that this year rice production was low and prices are increasing everywhere.
    I paid $16.99/bag of Jasmine rice. That’s exorbitant.

    Even Costco is limiting 1 bag/customer. Now that’s serious.

    Comment by Anjali Damerla — April 25, 2008 @ 6:09 pm

  4. It is a global problem and not tied to election of any one country. It started with Australia’s, Vietnam, Indonesia’s drought and low production in food grains (both rice and wheat). Seeing the deficit, India and some other countries have decided to stop the export (except high price rice) to protect their people.
    Here is one angle:
    The limit of one bag per person is
    There is also inflation due to rising oil prices.

    The limit of one bag per family is to stop panic hoarding.

    Unfortunately this condition is predicted to exacerbate with further perturbation in climate. We should all really treat our Mother Earth better…like in old times.

    Comment by mystic — April 25, 2008 @ 6:54 pm

  5. Actually US produces enough rice for domestic consumption but immigrants who like “exotic” varieties like jasmine or sona masuri are out of luck because India, vietnam and other countries producing rice have banned export due to shortages in their country. Rice is internationally sold today at $1000/ton and it was $350 in January! We can buy to Calrose brand of local rice as a last resort. Having said that, I just bought the last bag of sona masuri from my local grocer yesterday. And my local Costco is raising prices of Jasmine rice starting this weekend.

    Comment by ash — April 25, 2008 @ 11:39 pm

  6. Dear Indira, such things happen all the time..with inflation and rising prices. However, looks like a temporary phenomenon, hopefully!
    I ran into a lovely young girl of 26, Pavithra when I was staying in London. She is a friend’s friend. We got talking about cookbooks and food, and one of the first things she said was, ‘There is a site called Mahanandi - I visit there regularly, she has the most awesome recipes posted.’ Well, I beamed and said, ‘I know her so well…blah blah!’ She said she had written to you a while ago and you had replied too, so I hope you recall her. A lovely girl…doing her Masters at Cardiff.
    It is lovely to run into strangers and find that they like the same things as you. Kudos and Cheers!

    Comment by Pritya — April 25, 2008 @ 11:44 pm

  7. It is the same here in UK too. A fortnight back, when we went to the Indian store in East Ham, every shopper was walking out with 20-30 kilos of rice. The shopkeepers found it really amusing!

    But yeah we’d feel the pinch soon enough. The prices have gone up already. May be you shld stock up!

    Comment by desigirl — April 25, 2008 @ 11:55 pm

  8. Yeah its an impending rice shortage. You should buy your supply of rice as soon as you can. I havent visited Indian Stores yet after I heard about the rice ration. But it sure sounds scary. I need atleast a morsel of rice once a day even if I have to live on wheat.

    I have used Canilla Rice (long grain) previously. Its ok only that it becomes quite mushy after cooking. Also since its new rice, you have to use lots of it to get the required quantity of cooked rice.

    Comment by Sapna — April 26, 2008 @ 10:47 am

  9. I think it’s because of rising oil prices, drought and above all Mother Nature rising above such occasions to remind us all of her power and presence:) The panic button is not yet hit in Indian shops in Germany… except that we don’t get ponni rice and Pilsbury atta. But I find the local whole wheat flour equally good for making rotis (and also with all the bran intact). Today we bought 2×10 kg bags simply because my parents will be visiting us and me expecting the second one in a month… we wanted to reduce our frequent visits to the Indian shop. But all this news is now worrying me too:) A proper Southie, don’t know what we’ll do without rice!

    Comment by Latha — April 26, 2008 @ 11:04 am

  10. Hello Indira,
    A long time follower and admirer of your site. certainly I have been cooking with more “consciousness” since following you and otherfood bloggers. Thanks for that.

    Yes , as Mystic said there is a shortage of rice due to some bad crop but as experts are saying its temporary and will even out. However hoarding and panicing will only help black marketeers and speculators and will only worsen situation around the globe especially for the poorest people in Asia as black marketeering will start.
    I am very pained to see that even educated ppl are resorting to this hoarding, for instance I have heard of families going individually and getting bags of rice since the one limit and in quantities beyond what they require.
    I have about 5lbs sona masoori rice left and I will go to the store when I come close to finishing it , if its not available I will just make do with some local variety or other options.

    Best wishes

    Comment by Bharati — April 26, 2008 @ 12:46 pm

  11. Hey Indira,
    I had been to our Indian store (Denver, CO)this weekend and no rice shortage yet. According to the store owner,there is an export ban of Jasmine rice from China and a slight shortage of Basmati from India, that’s about it:)Anyways I got a bag of Rosematta and Jasmine:)
    Have a great weekend Indi :D

    Comment by Reema — April 26, 2008 @ 3:06 pm

  12. Here’s what I’ve learned from some analyses I read recently. One reason rice has become more expensive is that the price of *other* grains has risen worldwide (I don’t know exactly why there’s a global food shortage). So other-grain-eaters have had to switch to rice, which means rice consumption is up, also worldwide. The other (complementary) reason for the shortage is that the biggest rice exporters (Thailand, Vietnam, and India) fear domestic economic and political problems if rice prices go up too much. There were been mass demonstrations in Vietnam recently — thousands of people demanding that the government control rice prices and supply. So these countries are banning or reducing rice exports. India is banning (or has already banned, not sure) non-basmati exports, because that’s the bulk of domestic consumption (basmati being the rice of the rich here). Based on that report, I’d say basmati supplies to the US should not be greatly disrupted, but I don’t know whether the latest crop is poorer than usual. India’s ban will affect many poor countries, including many African ones, *really* badly, because they import the low-end rice (not basmati).

    I know most of us Indians are taught from childhood not to waste food — a part of Indian culture that I’m especially proud of after living in the US. But this is a time everyone, Indian or otherwise, to be extra mindful, to not hoard food (most of us here can *afford* to pay higher prices for a while), and also to be generous to those in need.

    Comment by Uma — April 26, 2008 @ 3:33 pm

  13. Hi Indira,
    Your socially conscious blog never fails in raising pressing issues! The reason for these shortages are varied and many of them have been presented in the comments section. However, one silent culprit is the drive for biofuels and people investing in more profitable crops such as Bt cotton. The land used for growing food crops is being diverted to the production of corn and soy. Also, many opportunist agro-tech companies are utilizing this scarcity to convince nations to adopt GM foods. At the outset GM food seem like the solution to problems of crop failure, etc. However, once you read more about their strategies you wonder if this is just the beginning of a series of food scarcities. I feel that the solution lies is watching our consumption and curtailing are neverending wants.
    I am sorry if I may sound like an alarmist.
    Thanks for raising this issue.
    Best wishes,

    Comment by sonia — April 26, 2008 @ 3:41 pm

  14. Regardless the actual circumstances surrounding rising food prices and/or shortages, I can’t help but think that the media contributes to a panic atmosphere. In my opinion the internet makes it worse; with instant updates any time of the day or night from every corner of the world, and at any given moment one might open AOL or Yahoo to find some inane teaser headline such as “Food Riots — Find Out Where”!! Sickening.

    Comment by Linda — April 26, 2008 @ 8:22 pm

  15. Dear Indira, i am glad you raised this issue and i got to know many points of view.
    I have only 2lbs of brown rice and none of Sona masuri.Wll go buy sona masuri when i get a chance.
    I am going incorporate other grains like Jonnalu, korralu, ragi and quinoa into regular cooking than occassionally.

    Comment by Madhuri.A — April 27, 2008 @ 12:48 am

  16. Dear Indira,

    From what I hear from sources in India, the shortage is due to the unexpected and unseasonal monsoons that destroyed a lot of crops..

    Comment by Bhuvana Murali — April 27, 2008 @ 7:31 am

  17. ‘Buy as much rice as you can now’ will definitely worsen the situation. It may be politics /hoax/real but when we see people buying bags of 25 LBS rice from costco, I think that they are in a way increasing demand for rice ,which is definitely going to affect the price of rice and worsen the condition.I think we should calm down and try to switch over to other healthy/locally grown brown rice at this point . Remember..more demand…more increase in rice price.

    Comment by anitha — April 27, 2008 @ 8:49 am

  18. I believe Indira, its a combination of both, though right now it does not seem to be limited to one country. Unfortunately for us when India and other rice producing countries ban the export of rice, we feel the reprussions here in the US. I paid $20.99 for a 10 lb bag of Sona Masoori in our Indian store the other. And atta has become dearer too. They have also started the rationing of one bag of rice per family per month i think. So what do we eat? When staple food is so expensive. I shudder to think what the poor and poverty stricken nations/people who can’t afford meals are regular prices do at times such as this!
    Sad but true!

    Comment by Latha — April 27, 2008 @ 9:37 am

  19. Indira,
    You have raised a great question. I would agree with some of the commentors that we shouldn’t start hoarding…that will make situation worse. And US grows lot of rice just diff kind and we have plenty of that. I would just switch to local brand.

    Comment by Sonal — April 27, 2008 @ 10:42 am

  20. This might be the best time to consider the carbon footprint of the rice we are all eating, esp Sona Masuri, Rosematta, Surati Kolam, basmati etc and switch to locally grown rice. Brown rice, grown in the US, is available.

    And if the poor people in India are suffering because costs are high due to exports, all the more reason to stop buying Indian rice, no?

    Comment by Manisha — April 27, 2008 @ 1:16 pm

  21. Why only rice, may be we should stop purchasing at Indian stores altogether and spend our hard earned money supporting US corporations like Whole Foods, TJ or Walmart. (90 percent of their produce is from other countries.) Or simply stop cooking and feed our children yummy mystery meat burgers at Mcdonalds drive-throughs.
    People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks.

    Comment by Ramani — April 27, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

  22. I was at an Indian store yesterday and the cashier thought there was a limit of 1 bag per person. She called the manager but she said for Sona Masuri Rice, it was fine to buy 4 bags. She said it was only for Basmathi rice that they had to limit it at the store. But like other people have said on this page, there is nothing wrong in getting brown rice if we need to since it is after all healthier.

    Comment by Harika — April 27, 2008 @ 5:32 pm

  23. It is the oild price Indira, nothing else! Read an analyse all the news and it is just the oil price which is making the whole World in inflation. Imagine how bombing a single country can affect the whole World. People who dont even know what a car or an automobile is, are suffering in inflation!

    Comment by Inji Pennu — April 27, 2008 @ 8:44 pm

  24. Thank you all for contributing informative and thought provoking notes on this topic.

    One of the most frightening articles I have read in recent weeks is about Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear. Their scorching the earth agricultural policies and ruthless ways of controlling the seeds, you have to read it to believe it. They create artificial shortages; kill the small farming communities, all under saccharine marketing. They took total control of US agricultural market, be it soybeans, rice, cotton or vegetables like tomatoes and peppers. And are aggressively applying the same tactics in our farmlands. Farmers in our countries have no way of coping their attacks on traditional agricultural practices.

    One way we can offer help to our farmers is, instead of knee jerk reactions, by being loyal to products that we grew up with, as much as possible (an encouragement to our farmers and good old, mutually beneficial trade practices), and reduce spending our hard earned money on any cheap, environmentally brutal, US subsidized, GM produce. If we are in a position to afford, our purchasing power help to preserve the seed diversity and seed independence. We owe this to our hard working farmers, and it’s our responsibility to future generations and for true green earth.

    Comment by Indira — April 28, 2008 @ 12:02 am

  25. Hi Indira,
    This sure looks to be true. We are feeling the crunch here in London too. Yesterday we ordered some fodd from our regular Indian Restaurant & were surprised to know that the bill came to almost double of what it normally is. On enquiring we were shocked to find that the price of the rice items were doubled because of a rice shortage!

    Your blog was the first place I read about it. Thanks for keeping us informed! Now I am rushing to grocery store to get some rice before everyone runs out of it!

    Comment by Bhagyashri — April 28, 2008 @ 1:18 am

  26. It is for the same reason that you have stated in your comment, we have started buying all our grocery needs from Indian stores. Our purchase in US grocery stores is limited to vegetables, fruits and milk. I wont say that this is making a dent in our pockets but one thing we have noticed, my husband’s heartburn problem has drastically reduced. It maybe because the items from Indian stores is not as much processed as their counterparts in other stores. Anyways your comment hopefully is an eye-opener for many.

    Comment by Sapna — April 28, 2008 @ 6:24 am

  27. Dear Indira, thanks for the Monsanto article, and especially for raising the issue of rice. Following some US news coverage online, I get the feeling the scare is largely due to hype. I guess when any news channel has to crank out news 24X7, it inevitably repeats the same thing in 100 ways, making a price rise seem like a famine. I don’t believe things are that bad in the US.

    I wonder whether “rationing” by stores like Sam’s Club and Costco is having the opposite effect, of encouraging people to “stock up” (i.e. hoard). If they suddenly allow “only” four sacks per visit, even customers who have always bought one bag per visit will feel compelled to buy at least 2-3.

    Food prices have shot up in India, but the middle class here is certainly not panicking the way it seems to be in the US. I hope it’s being widely publicized in the US that India has not restricted basmati exports, but only curbed non-basmati exports. Also, India expects record foodgrain production for the year ending June ‘08 — reason to expect a drop in prices in future.

    If we can’t get our usual type of rice, we should switch to whatever’s available. If we hoard out of fear, we may save ourselves a few rupees or dollars (which many of us can afford to pay without suffering too much). But we’ll certainly enrich commodity speculators and traders, and contribute to the hunger of millions who can’t even afford their daily bowl of rice, much less to “stock up”.

    Sorry for such a long post!

    Comment by Uma — April 28, 2008 @ 5:03 pm

  28. Hi Indira,

    I hope you are doing well. Its been an year since I stopped blogging, but I visit your blog once in a while. It’s one of my favorites :)

    I too had the same question in mind about the rice price rise. From all the comments above, I can understand that may be there is a shortage in production, may be it is hype, may be it is something else. But what I do not understand is, a $12.99 sticker on a 10lb brown basmati rice bag suddenly change to $14.99 the next day. The shop would have brought that way before the crisis started, so how does the shortage the store? The change in price of new stock is justified, but somehow rising the price of existing stock seems so selfish. I don’t know if that’s how economy works or businesses do, but it doesn’t seem right to me at a first glance.

    Comment by Tweety — April 28, 2008 @ 9:18 pm

  29. Hey guys,

    Let me tell you this.. I paid $24.99 for a 20 lb bag of sona masoori rice in local patel Brothers. Earlier it used to be $11.99

    Oh my god what are we going to eat in future if the prices keep growing like gas prices.

    Wheat Flour prices were also raised.

    Comment by Indian Food lover — April 29, 2008 @ 8:19 am

  30. Hi,

    I stay in San Jose, Sona Masoori costs 16.99 here(@ Kamal Spices). The guy there told me that there is no supply of rice and the prices might go up again. He also said that the price of lentils (toor dal, chana dal, urid dal) MIGHT also go up.

    Comment by Sumana Vishwanath — April 29, 2008 @ 10:44 pm

  31. Hi Indira…

    Very true that we are facing this situation..We stay in Groton and there is only one Indian Store…when we first heard the news that he is incresing the price of rice,we thought it must be monopoly….But then later we came to knw the real fact….Right now the price for a 20lb Sona Masuri is $28…At this rate I am really wondering what is the next alternate to rice!!!!!

    Comment by Jayalakshmi Raja — May 1, 2008 @ 7:48 am

  32. Though no Indian, I am a huge Indian food addict.

    There is a local variety of Basmati grown in Texas called Texmati. You may want to look for this in your local stores. I have seen it in a few stores. Trader Joes also sells pre-cooked Basmati in the freezer section. Hope this info helps.

    Comment by Colette More — May 1, 2008 @ 12:04 pm

  33. Indira,

    I have become more conscious about our rice consumption. Though I am still surprised that my Indian grocery here is Houston has not raised its price dramatically on sona masoori($8.00 for a 10lb bag).
    I have been following commentary on the food crisis. I agree with many commentators who say that the drive to produce biofuels and subsidies in this regard are encouraging farmers to use more arable land towards satisfying the “energy” hunger. I think among many other things that may help the current situation efforts to use by-products of food crops waste and algae for producing biofuels might help in redirecting the resources at hand back to food production.
    The most troubling fact is that the food crisis is like a “silent tsunami”, as the director of the WFP put it. There was an interesting cover story about how to solve the food crisis on the economist
    We feel the pinch during …but in developing nations many go hungry…but this is not receiving sufficient attention.

    Have you ever tried your hand at this game?

    One can donate rice by just playing vocabulary games.

    Thanks again for the interesting discussion you have brought about by raising this issue.

    Comment by Akhila — May 2, 2008 @ 1:20 pm

  34. The price for non-basmati rice is going up due to a) Suspension of Export of Non-Basmati by India
    b) Due to consumer willing to pay as high as $30-50 per bag of 20lbs sona Masoori??????

    This what hikes the price. It may be easier for me say as I am not a rice eater but Consumer should not pay that much, just for short while, and prices will start to fall…soon!

    Comment by Ravi — May 5, 2008 @ 1:22 pm

  35. hi,
    i stay in boston and the panic button is set in guys, here on sat. we bought 3 bag of 20 LB sona masuri rice bags for 13 $ each and today when my friend went to pick up the same (we heard in our office that rice is being rationed in indian stores)she could not get a single bag in many indian stores and the ones she got were selling for 35$ a bag. today we got out of office in the afternoon and were looking out at every indian market for rice.the indian market owners were saying that the rate may go up to 50 $ a bag or even go up.
    as we are south indian we need sona masuri rice at least ones a day.
    so all ladies get prepared to face some challenge in cooking (i think it is better to go out and eat ,as it will be cheaper than cooking at home )

    Comment by unnati — May 7, 2008 @ 3:03 pm

  36. Indira,
    Have you tried using Riceland’s extra long grain rice?
    I was not able to get rice before the shortage and now I am running out of it.
    This is the only rice available in sams club.
    Have you used it? Do you recommend it?

    Comment by Anu — May 9, 2008 @ 7:19 am

  37. Yeah! these are tough times for staple rice eaters like us. We switched to long grain rice + basmati rice both from costco, which is eatable for sona masoori lovers. Just long grain is mushy, so i’m mixing them both 1:1 which goes better with items like rasam and curd.

    Comment by prathima — May 9, 2008 @ 8:12 am

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