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Rice shortage panic sweeps across US

27 July 2023

Washington: Panic buying, hoarding, and price gouging have become rampant across the United States following India’s recent ban on non-Basmati white rice exports. The ban, announced last week, has sent shockwaves through the global food market, as India is a major rice exporter.

Aruna, who lives in Washington, echoed the anxiety shared by many in the Indian diaspora. “I visited almost 10 plus stores. I started looking for a bag of Sona Massori at 9 am and it wasn’t until 4 pm that I could finally lay my hands on a bag of rice at triple its usual price,” she said.

The news of the ban has sparked a frenzy as Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) scramble to secure their supply of non-Basmati white rice, a staple of Indian cuisine. Videos circulating on social media showed people rushing to grab the last remaining rice bags at giant stores.

The panic reminded many of the baby formula shortage in the US post the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war.

India’s export ban aims to ensure domestic availability and lower prices for consumers at home. However, its ripple effects are being felt far and wide, particularly in the US where South Asian grocery stores are witnessing unprecedented demand.

At Sapna Foods, a wholesale seller in Maryland, proprietor Tarun Sardana reports a surge in demand. “We have been getting a lot of extra calls for specific rice – the Sona Massori. The demand on the weekend was even more. By Monday morning, everybody was just trying to source as much South Indian rice as possible from warehouses such as ours,” Sardana said.

Even though the export ban does not include the premium-grade Basmati rice, he noted that consumers are buying it up in bulk as a precautionary measure.

As the panic-buying escalates, so does the price. Wholesalers and rice companies are adjusting their prices due to the overwhelming demand, leading to price gouging. “Prices are unfortunately up and about 100 per cent, which is double at this time,” Sardana added.

Source: News Today