Next time you throw away leftover rice, think twice. Rice prices have gone up all over the world and billions of people are looking at hoarding it. In North Carolina last week, some locals and I spent a good deal of time about a news story on rice being sold in controlled quantities.
Reuter's and the Financial Times reported that Walmart/Sam's Club and Costco were restricting bulk rice purchases because many customers were fearful of rising food prices world wide. (It's been estimated that prices have gone up about 30%.) That news was reported in Australia and the U.K.
In Vietnam, inflation this year is 16% (it never went down after Tet, as is the usual). Just a few days ago, rice prices in Vietnam went up precipitously (nearly 100% in one instance), within hours as reported in this Thanh Nien news story that Simon Bao pointed me to. Cash is tight in Vietnam, and people are panicking, as reported yesterday in the Globe and Mail. Vietnam is one of the leading world exporters of rice and people are scared, while others, perhaps are speculating and taking advantage of fearful consumers in Vietnam and abroad.
What kind of rice are we talking? Jasmine, Basmati and long-grain -- the favorites for many of us oryza sativa eaters. Not the stuff for risotto.
Costco Chief Executive Officer James Sinegal speculated that there was overreaction due to media hype, but my husband and I were thinking of switching to buying a 50-pound bag instead of our usual 25-pound bag of jasmine rice next time we're at the Asian market. The stuff doesn't go bad quickly . . .
I don't know if this is universally human or just an Asian proclivity to hoarding or an attribute of people who've been through hard times. My father vividly recalls the northern Vietnam famine in the late 1940s when there was not enough transportation to deliver rice from the south to the north. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people, died within months.
Ours is a hungry planet and world population is not shrinking. Are any of you stocking up on rice?