The Headaches Of Selling High-Priced Rice

April 25, 2008

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This American-grown variety of rice is just one kind that's been rising in price lately. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee)

Consumers in Asia have been contending with the rising cost of rice. Americans used to eating rice are facing the same problem, but in between far-off rice fields and the home table, there're local store owners who make the final rice sales.

At the Thailand Food store in Chicago, shelves are packed with gold buddhas, noodles, mango candy, and hot-sauces. Right near the door, a worker stacks bags of rice.

I ask manager Ben Ja how much they cost.

JA: A fifty pound sack is now $44.95.

ALLEE: What was it maybe a year ago?

JA: A year ago, it was 24.95.

But Ja says even with the increase, she's not making any more money.

She says when customers gripe about the price spike, she refers them to overseas newspapers and Web sites.

They explain rice is expensive because of droughts, rising demand, and tightening export policies.

 

At the Uni-Mart Filipino grocery, there's plenty of rice to be had, but it's getting pricier, too.

Manager Jamie Tan says that makes it hard to dodge customer complaints.

TAN: They say they're going to eat bread more than rice.

ALLEE: Do you believe them?

TAN: In the short run they will do it. But in the long run, you know, rice is a staple for us, they will come back and buy it also.

Tan says customers should keep in mind that at most Asian stores grocers and customers are in the same boat.

After all, the store owners usually eat rice at home, too.

I'm Shawn Allee, Chicago Public Radio.