California rice prices increase

April 22, 2008 8:00:53 PM PDT
The world-wide rice shortage could be a boon for California rice farmers.

Long grain rice has doubled in price, which may lead rice lovers to the less pricey medium grain rice grown in California.

Colusa County is the rice capital of California. As planting season begins, farmers are loading up thousands of pounds of seeds onto small planes daily and dropping them onto acres and acres of wet fields.

Growers are seeing these little seeds as gold these days.

"There's a shortage of rice throughout the world, much of it is the long grain rice and that price has been high for quite a while. But price has increased very substantially for the medium-grain market as well, which is what California specializes in," said Jim Morris from the California Rice Commission.

Rice producing countries have restricted exports to reduce prices for their own citizens, forcing prices here up.

Thai jasmine rice jumped from $20 to $40 for a 50 pound sack, straining family and restaurant budgets.

California rice farmers, like Ben Gordon, see this world demand spike as an opportunity.

"We should be able to make a fair profit this year, which is nice change. We haven't been able to do that for the last few years," said California rice farmer Ben Gordon.

But there's also a chance to capture market share. Long-grain rice lovers may try medium-grain and never switch back.

It doesn't hurt to grow California's $500 million rice industry.

"A lot of the rice we grow here is a fancy type of medium grain. It is really the premium rice around the world. It's some of the tastiest rice," said Gordon.

Worried that there won't be enough rice, sacks are flying off the shelves. So much so, Costco is asking customers to limit their purchases to a reasonable amount.

Still, for some cultures, rice, no matter the price -- will remain a staple.

"No, I have to have my rice. So I'll still buy it," said Rice eater Anna Kinoshita.

"No matter how expensive it is?" asked ABC7's Nannette Miranda.

"Right, I just won't eat as much," said Kinoshita.

After harvesting and processing at one of the plants this fall, the money will start coming in. It is too bad California farmers didn't know about world-wide rice shortage any sooner, they had already planned this year's crop and can only grow acreage by three percent.


Load Comments