April 23, 2008

Perspective Required

FOR THE RECORD, The Rant is not impressed with the stories appearing in the press about the sudden "rationing" of rice at many U.S. supermarkets. This is for the following reasons:

1. The Government has not announced rice rationing, meaning the issue is not a fundamental supply issue but ultimately logistical in nature.

2. The Government has never rationed cereals, even during World War II, when we were fighting the Nazis.

3. When we were fighting the Nazis, the Government rationed meats, fats, sugar, vegetables and gasoline. Not only that, the Government set the national speed limit at 35 mph as part of a rubber-rationing scheme. 35 miles per hour. No wonder everyone signed up to fight the Jerries.

4. The rice products being "rationed" at these stores are not American rice, but rather fancy imported rice, as the American Digest blog notes. True, the imported rice (such as Thai basmati rice) is higher-quality, but it's not like you can't procure rice to save your life.

5. The price for American rice is higher than it used to be -- it now stands at about $850 per ton. This works out to $42.50 per cwt or $0.425 per pound. Four pounds of rice is enough to feed a family of four for an entire day. Thus, even if a family of four ate nothing but rice for a day, this rice would cost $1.64 at wholesale.

6. The purchase limit at the chains "rationing" rice varies from between 100 lbs. to 200 lbs. PER PURCHASE, as American Digest again noted.

In short, anyone who wants rice can have it, because American rice farmers are producing bushels and bushels of the stuff. Even the fancy stuff is available to anyone who wants it, even if stores may occasionally run out of the fancier grades due to localized speculative buying. So it seems hard to describe this practice as "rationing." I mean, I don't know about you, but it seems difficult to argue the nation is in fundamental peril because some stores are limiting people to buying a scant two or three months' supply of rice at a time.

Of course, I do realize that export bans abroad may eventually limit the supply of top-quality rice, but I doubt things will get that far. Even if it did, it would be no different than the present situation we have involving caviar, where beluga caviar cannot be found for any price. (Not that one could afford it even if it was available, but it's not like one can't enjoy caviar otherwise just because beluga is not on the shelf). Other kinds of rice would still be there. They will always still be there. Whipping up panic does not help matters.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at April 23, 2008 08:52 PM | TrackBack

Capital post, as usual!

Posted by: Matt at April 25, 2008 09:50 PM
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