WILMINGTON -- You can add rice to the list of worldwide shortage concerns. Two major US wholesale clubs are now rationing rice. CostCo and Sam's Club have put limits on the amount of rice a customer can buy, to help ward off rice hoarding. The limits are not likely to affect most customers, but could affect restaurants that buy in large quantities. Sam's Club is limiting bulk purchases to four 20-pound bags. CostCo does not have a set rule for each store, but gives managers the authority to limit purchases if they see their supplies running low. The rice shortage has a lot to do with rising demand overseas. Agricultural economists say soaring demand for rice is being fueled by increasing demand from Asian countries, particularly China, whose economies are growing rapidly. NC State Agricultural Economist Mike Walden said, "When people worldwide try to buy more rice than is available to sell, the price goes up." Walden says using rationing is one way to limit consumption other than raising prices. Instead of raising the price of rice in their stores retailers like CostCo can suppress demand by limiting purchases. Of course we all know how much more food costs at the grocery store these days. Several local restaurant owners say they too are feeling pinched, not only by the rising price of rice, but also by the cost of milk, wheat, and other commodities. And those cost increases may ultimately end up being passed on to us.
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