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April 24, 2008

Wal-Mart rations rice in the U.S.

Wal-Mart is now restricting retail rice sales in the United States. With food prices skyrocketing worldwide, many consumers are buying in bulk in anticipation of further price hikes:

Sam's Club, Wal-Mart's cash-and-carry division, says customers can buy a maximum of four bags per visit.

The limit applies to jasmine, basmati and long grain white rice.

The international price of rice has risen by 68% this year and Wal-Mart said the restrictions were "due to recent supply and demand trends".

There are more than 550 Sam's Club stores in the US.

With food prices rising, customers have been buying basic goods in bulk.

Wal-Mart said it was not restricting the amounts of flour or oil customers can purchase "at this time". [BBC]

Earlier this month, Paul Krugman wrote a good op/ed about the economic and political forces that are doubling and tripling the price of many staple foods worldwide.


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The most inefficient way to produce food for people is to grow crops, feed them to animals, and then kill the animals and distribute their carcasses for people to eat.

If most people were vegetarians, we would have a more efficient system for feeding people.

Believe it or not, up here in Canada, I've thought of buying an extra couple of bags of rice myself. I love rice, and don't want to be caught out when the prices rise.


I'm not a vegetarian, but your comment is spot on.

I'm also troubled by the idea of converting corn into ethanol, which is not efficient in the first place, and which distorts the food markets. High food prices, as aggrevated by mismanaged food policies in nearly every region, will be a minor pain in the ass to people like us, and a life and death issue to people in Haiti or Bangladesh.

Funny, I bought a 10 pound bag of basmati rice a while back, which hasn't been opened. That's one good investment.

It isn't just about rising prices in North America. India and China are seeing rising standards of living and as an Indian politician sair (to paraphrase) "how do you tell 400 million people to go back to eating one meal a day when they just got used to two?" Most of the rice producing nations are considering stopping exports to ensure national stability.

Rising fuel prices are forcing farmers to cut back on the amount of land that they can afford to farm while simultaneously switching to higher production specialty crops or subsidized corn. It is the same all over the world and not going to get better in the near future. Of course the looming water crisis will take our mind off the food crisis soon enough.

No. The most inefficient way to produce food is to grow crops, then feed them to animals, then feed the animals to other animals, then kill the animals and put their carcasses into the soil to fertilize it, then grow crops on the soil, then harvest the crops and distribute the crops for people to eat.

Okay, you could probably get more inefficient than that, but that's what came to my mind, at least.

Shooting the food into the sun is probably less efficient.

Don’t worry. A largish mammal with a population numbering in the billions and growing, with per capita energy and natural resource requirements many orders of magnitude beyond what even the largest creatures on earth have ever required will never reach Malthusian limits. Some technological deus ex machina will always rescue us; never fear.

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