Washington: In the aftermath of India’s recent ban on non-Basmati white rice exports, panic buying, hoarding, and price gouging have become widespread in the United States. The ban, announced last week, has caused global shockwaves, as India is a significant rice exporter.
Aruna, a resident of Washington, expressed the anxiety shared by many in the Indian diaspora. She recounted her struggle to find a bag of Sona Massori rice, visiting multiple stores from 9 am until 4 pm when she finally managed to secure one at triple its usual price.
The news of the ban has triggered a frenzy among Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) who are scrambling to secure their supply of non-Basmati white rice, an essential part of Indian cuisine. Social media videos showed people rushing to grab the last remaining rice bags in large stores.
This situation has drawn parallels to past shortages, such as the baby formula scarcity during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war.
While India’s export ban is intended to ensure ample domestic availability and lower prices for its consumers, its effects are being felt far and wide, especially in the US, where South Asian grocery stores are witnessing an unprecedented surge in demand.
At Sapna Foods, a wholesale seller in Maryland, proprietor Tarun Sardana reported a significant increase in demand for specific rice types, particularly Sona Massori. The demand peaked over the weekend, and by Monday morning, people were desperately trying to source as much South Indian rice as possible from warehouses like his.
Even though the ban does not cover premium-grade Basmati rice, consumers are buying it in large quantities as a precautionary measure.
As panic-buying escalates, so do the prices. Wholesalers and rice companies are adjusting their prices due to the overwhelming demand, resulting in price gouging. Mr. Sardana stated that prices have surged by about 100 per cent, doubling the usual rates during this time.