For a person who eats rice like it’s going out of style, it is quite alarming that rice may in fact be running out, or so the flurry of news stories would have us believe.
While the cap for rice purchases here in the states at venues such as Sam’s Club and maybe even Costco will shock the average bulk-size shopper, there is no problem here in the U.S. The real situation is in other countries where the rapidly rising prices and potential scarcity of the staple food could be the difference between life and death.
In The Phillipinnes, a country of 90 million and the world’s largest importer of rice, the skyrocketing price of rice is the real problem. According to The Los Angeles Times, customers who were paying 65 cents per kilo for rice, are now forking over as much as 90 cents. This in a country where many people make less that two dollars a day.
While President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s government says there is enough rice for the next two months, it is what will happen after this point that has raised such concern.
Overall, there is not a shortage of rice–yet. But as news of the potential shortage spreads, so does the panic, causing people to buy up more than they usually would.
“The problems related to rice production and supply in Asia over the past year or more are cause for serious concern, but not for panic,” said Elizabeth Woods, chair of the International Rice Research Institute in early April.
More than 90 percent of rice is consumed in the same country where it is produced. But in recent years, consumption has exceeded production. And a six-year drought in Australia, a plant disease in Vietnam, and the subsequent hoarding of the product in other countries has all added up to this potential rice famine.
Worse, the escalating prices have also led to riots in some countries, including Haiti, where at least five people died.
Some say the media is making a mountain out of a rice molehill, but regardless if the famine is as real as they say it is, the panic is spreading.