Fox KPTM 42 News
April 21, 2008
OMAHA (KPTM) – Food shortages and rationing has been a third-world problem as of late, but recently, the phenomenon once thought unthinkable in the United States could start happening.
The New York Sun newspaper is reporting that major retailers on both coasts are limiting customers’ purchases of flour, rice and cooking oil.
The Sun reports that a Costco Warehouse in California ran out of rice, frustrating shoppers. “Where’s the rice?” an engineer from Palo Alto, Calif., Yajun Liu, said. “You should be able to buy something like rice. This is ridiculous.”
The rice that is left is selling at near one dollar a pound, and in some areas, customers report paying about $30 for a 25-pound bag.
Most Costco members were only allowed to buy only one bag. One clerk reportedly dropped two sacks back on the stack after taking them from a customer who tried to buy more than the one bag limit.
“Due to the limited availability of rice, we are limiting rice purchases based on your prior purchasing history,” a sign above the dwindling supply said, the Sun reports.
Shoppers said the limits had been in place for a few days, and that rice supplies had been spotty for a few weeks. A store manager referred questions to officials at Costco headquarters near Seattle, who did not return calls or e-mail messages to the Sun.
A New York Costco reportedly was not restricting rice, but is limiting oil and flour. Rumors floating on the Internet say that bakery owners bought up flour at warehouse stores after their commercial suppliers doubled their prices.
Spiking food prices have led to riots in recent weeks in Haiti, Indonesia, and several African nations. India recently banned export of all but the highest quality rice, and Vietnam blocked the signing of a new contract for foreign rice sales.
The price of rice futures reached record highs in recent days, after skyrocketing over the past two months. The price of wheat in the futures market has been down.
The paper reports that there have been rumors of some buying limits at Sam’s Club warehouses, owned by Wal-mart, but the company says it is not aware of any shortages or limits.
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