Thursday, April 24, 2008
Rice rationing/hoarding spreads at big (but rice-short?) box stores
Front page news in today's Advertiser is Sam's Club limiting rice sales/Warehouse chain's Hawaii stores restrict purchases to 4 bags:
Sam's Club stores in Hawai'i have signs informing members of new limits on jasmine, long grain and basmati rice.
As of Tuesday, Sam's Club members in Hawai'i are restricted to four "units" of each type of rice, according to a Sam's Club official, who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the media. Long-grain white rice comes in 25- and 50-pound bags and jasmine and basmati are each sold in 20-pound bags, the employee said.
Sam's Club followed Seattle-based Costco, which put limits in some of its stores on bulk rice purchases. Costco president and CEO Jim Sinegal declined to discuss the issue yesterday.
But Robert Loomis, manager of the Costco on Alakawa Street, said the company's Hawai'i stores have not imposed restrictions on how much rice customers can purchase.
That there is no rationing at Costcos in Hawaii seems to be contrary to the experience of commenter ku ching, who wrote in response to my article Could there be rice shortages and food rationing in Hawaii?
On Monday, April 21, at Costco in Kona - 20 pound bags of rice - white and brown - were limited to "one" per family - due to a "temporary" situation.
I thank ku ching for the report, and for this followup:
ku ching said...
In today's news - on CNN - Costco is rationing rice not because there is a shortage of rice, but because it intends to maintain current prices.
As for other retailers - because they can raise prices due to supply/demand mechanics - this isn't the game that Costco wants to play.
Costco makes its money of the sale of memberships - and very little on its markups. And - it wants to maintain its markup policy.
The report said that american farmers produce twice as much as domestic demand - and the rest goes to exports. Therefore - there is really no shortage of rice, but only the prospect of higher prices - except for sellers such as Costco.
It happens before a storm with toilet paper, and perhaps the run on rice when there is no shortage is an indication of some perceived storm coming in the food supply.
The message for us might simply be, "be prepared."
And I don't mean by running out and buying rice.
Let's look at our vulnerabilities as islands in middle of the Pacific and make reasonable plans.
On Kaua`i Costco is limiting rice to one bag and they are checking your “purchase records” to enforce it, so you can’t just get in another line to get two.
Last night Steven Colbert showed about a dozen clips from CNN, Fox, MSNBC etc. of talking heads, each saying “there is no rice shortage” to which he responded “Oh my god- there IS a rice shortage”... kind of like when authorities announce “this is not the time to panic” you know it’s time to panic.