Costco: One Bag Of Rice Per Customer, Please

The NY Sun says that Costco has resorted to “rationing” bags of rice in California and flour and oil in New York due to limited supply:

The bustling store in the heart of Silicon Valley usually sells four or five varieties of rice to a clientele largely of Asian immigrants, but only about half a pallet of Indian-grown Basmati rice was left in stock. A 20-pound bag was selling for $15.99.

“You can’t eat this every day. It’s too heavy,” a health care executive from Palo Alto, Sharad Patel, grumbled as his son loaded two sacks of the Basmati into a shopping cart. “We only need one bag but I’m getting two in case a neighbor or a friend needs it,” the elder man said.

The Patels seemed headed for disappointment, as most Costco members were being allowed to buy only one bag. Moments earlier, a clerk dropped two sacks back on the stack after taking them from another customer who tried to exceed the one-bag cap.

“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.

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 yesterday.

An employee at the Costco store in Queens said there were no restrictions on rice buying, but limits were being imposed on purchases of oil and flour. Internet postings attributed some of the shortage at the retail level to bakery owners who flocked to warehouse stores when the price of flour from commercial suppliers doubled.

Rice prices have skyrocketed in the past few months. Marketplace says prices are up 60-70%:

International demand is greater than the supply of available rice. That’s led several key rice-growing countries to impose export restrictions — resulting in even tighter supplies. Prices are also being driven by some of the same forces boosting all commodities — a weak dollar and high fuel prices.

Are the high rice prices hitting your home?

Food Rationing Confronts Breadbasket of the World [NY Sun] (Thanks, Ryan!)