Jul 28, 2023 - News

India's ban on rice exports drives up demand

Photo of a "limit two" sign for rice.

Limited supply of rice at World Food Mart. Photo: Shafaq Patel/Axios

India's new ban on certain rice exports is trickling down to Texas, a flashback of the great toilet paper panic of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Driving the news: Last week, India banned exports of non-basmati white rice to "allay the rise in prices in the domestic market," officials said.

  • The country is the world's largest exporter of rice, and its ban has triggered fear of a rise in global food prices, per The Guardian.

State of play: Rice is a staple in many South Asian cultures, and local South Asian grocery stores sell several brands and types of rice to cater to a variety of customers.

  • Though India's ban doesn't include all types of rice, news of panicked shoppers buying dozens of bags of rice at South Asian grocery stores in the U.S. lit up WhatsApp groups and social media over the weekend.

Zoom in: At World Food Mart, one of the larger South Asian grocery stores in Houston, a sign was placed over the sona masoori rice limiting customers to two bags each. The store still had bags of basmati rice, but customers were quickly buying those too.

  • Both Costcos in Upper Kirby and Westchase sold out of all of their sona masoori rice earlier this week due to the high demand, an employee told Axios. She added that she was not sure when it would be restocked.

Yes, but: Houston, even with its large South Asian population, hasn't yet reached the panic seen in North Texas, where customers flooded local stores including Patel Brothers and India Bazaar to stock up on rice, concerned that India's ban may result in higher prices or limit its availability later on.

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