By Kathleen Phillips
You're not running out of rice.
Reports of rice shortages in the United States likely will apply only to a few imported varieties, and definitely not the domestic supply of the popular grain.
"Are we running out of rice - the answer is no," says Dr. Mark Welch, Texas AgriLife Extension economist, College Station.
News that two large box retailers in the United States have been limiting customer purchases of rice was shocking in a nation where any 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 their stores across the nation.
But the reason behind the limits and facts about rice supply are not in sync.
"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," Welch notes.
While rice supplies are at relatively low levels, it doesn't justify the panic buying and escalating prices - that's just not supported by supply/demand basics.
Welch says that per capita consumption of rice has not increased in several years. Demand for corn and soybeans is increasing largely due to bio-fuels and feed use, but wheat and rice demand are basically unchanged.
He notes people in the U.S. eat about 4 pounds of rice a month. That's about 10 million hundredweight (cwt.) a month in this nation.
The U.S. has about 104 million cwt. of rice in supply right now, or at least a 10-month supply.
And keep in mind, he adds, that another rice harvest in the U.S. will begin in September. That's just 5 months away, and will start replenishing rice supplies.
Welch says rice is a staple in diets of over half the world's population, and any increase in price for those with limited incomes can create a hardship.
- Kathleen Phillips is with Texas AgriLife Communications, College Station.