Rice bags off shelves as Telugus in U.S. storm supermarkets

News about the Indian government announcing a ban on rice exports triggers a buying and hoarding frenzy of the staple foodgrain

July 23, 2023 10:44 pm | Updated July 24, 2023 12:57 am IST - HYDERABAD

A board at an Indian store in the USA as people stock up Sona Masoori white rice after India announced a ban.

A board at an Indian store in the USA as people stock up Sona Masoori white rice after India announced a ban.

When Divya Teja, a software professional in New Jersey read about the Indian government announcing a ban on rice exports, it was just another piece of news from back home. But a few hours later, her WhatsApp group of friends in the U.S. started buzzing constantly with the news and the discussions that it will lead to shortage of rice in the U.S.

Majority of the messages had concern writ large, asking their near and dear ones to rush to the nearest Indian store to pick up the rice bags. She too joined the chorus and landed at a mall the next morning only to find queues of Indians picking up multiple bags fearing the prices would go up and also the shortage.

Ramya, another Indian software professional in Plano, Dallas, and her entire group were confronted with a similar situation and rushed to the nearest store. The price of the rice bag had already doubled since they last picked up one. “We had no other option but to pick up a few bags as a precautionary measure despite the sudden price hike,” she told The Hindu. Sowjanya Yatham from Troy in Michigan said the stocks of the most preferred Sona Masoori have vanished from stores across Detroit area that has large population of South Indians. 

Each bag of Sona Masoori cost her about $40 for the 20 Lb. It was $20 three days before the export ban news broke out. Sampath Kumar, a resident of Los Angeles had a similar experience. He says he had bought the same bag for $30 on Saturday and it was 25$ on Friday and 18$ a day before that. Prices of other grains and pulses remained the same, he said.

These are among thousands of Telugus across the USA making a beeline at grocery stores and retail chains to buy non-Basmati white rice, which is their primary preference. “It is panic created by the news websites and also sharing of those stories in family groups. “When people pick up 6 months stock at once stores end up with no stock boards or make money increasing the prices,” says Arun Patlolla, a Virginia-based Software professional.

Kavita Malladi, a resident of Seattle, says the shortage news has hit those who consume Sona Masoori white rice but the stores are trying to discourage hoarding demanding minimum purchase of $25 to $30 if they want to purchase a rice bag. “So if you want a rice bag you are forced to buy additional stuff,” she said.

Hyderabadi Biryani lovers in the USA will be in shock in the next few days as people expect the restaurants to hike the prices given the shortage of rice and also the sudden spike in the price. “I am expecting the biryani prices to shoot up,” said Madhav K.V.S., a resident of Seattle.

Sravani, another resident of Virginia said after exhausting in the stores, people are now trying to buy online and Amazon is quoting a price of $80 for the 20 lb bag which was around $20 earlier. She was able to pick up one bag from a store with lots of difficulty.

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