By JOSH GERSTEIN, Staff Reporter of the Sun | April 21, 2008
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Many parts of America, long considered the breadbasket of the world, are now confronting a once unthinkable phenomenon: food rationing.

Major retailers in New York, in areas of New England, and on the West Coast are limiting purchases of flour, rice, and cooking oil as demand outstrips supply. There are also anecdotal reports that some consumers are hoarding grain stocks.

At a Costco Warehouse in Mountain View, Calif., yesterday, shoppers grew frustrated and occasionally uttered expletives as they searched in vain for the large sacks of rice they usually buy.
“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 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 nearSeattle, 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.
The curbs and shortages are being tracked with concern by survivalists who view the phenomenon as a harbinger of more serious trouble to come.

“It’s sporadic. It’s not every store, but it’s becoming more commonplace,” the editor ofSurvivalBlog.com, James Rawles, said. “The number of reports I’ve been getting from readers who have seen signs posted with limits has increased almost exponentially, I’d say in the last three to five weeks.”

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 new contract for foreign rice sales.
“I’m surprised the Bush administration hasn’t slapped export controls on wheat,” Mr. Rawles said. “The Asian countries are here buying every kind of wheat.”

Mr. Rawles said it is hard to know how much of the shortages are due to lagging supply and how much is caused by consumers hedging against future price hikes or a total lack of product.

“There have been so many stories about worldwide shortages that it encourages people to stock up. What most people don’t realize is that supply chains have changed, so inventories are very short,” Mr. Rawles, a former Army intelligence officer, said. “Even if people increased their purchasing by 20%, all the store shelves would be wiped out.”
At the moment, large chain retailers seem more prone to shortages and limits than do smaller chains and mom-and-pop stores, perhaps because store managers at the larger companies have less discretion to increase prices locally.
Mr. Rawles said the spot shortages seemed to be most frequent in the Northeast and all the way along the West Coast. He said he had heard reports of buying limits at Sam’s Club warehouses, which are owned by Wal-Mart Stores, but a spokesman for the company, Kory Lundberg, said he was not aware of any shortages or limits.

An anonymous high-tech professional writing on an investment Web site, Seeking Alpha, said he recently bought 10 50-pound bags of rice at Costco. “I am concerned that when the news of rice shortage spreads, there will be panic buying and the shelves will be empty in no time. I do not intend to cause a panic, and I am not speculating on rice to make profit. I am just hoarding some for my own consumption,” he wrote.

For now, rice is available at Asian markets in California, though consumers have fewer choices when buying the largest bags. “At our neighborhood store, it’s very expensive, more than $30” for a 25-pound bag, a housewife from Mountain View, Theresa Esquerra, said. “I’m not going to pay $30. Maybe we’ll just eat bread.”

It’s from a lady in Texas (amidst the hurricane) .  It hit home and may give us some more ideas of items to store.
Dear Friends:

We have a 6′x6′ hole in our roof, no electricity or running water, Trees down everywhere. However, because we listened to the counsel of our Prophet we are prepared. In fact it seems to me that it’s only the members of the church who seem to be calm, prepared, and helping one another with trees in roofs, flooding, etc.

There is a POD or Point of Distribution in Tomball where we live. There you get water and ice IF you have enough fuel to wait in the 3-hour lines. We don’t have to do that because we have 3 full water barrels, 75 juice bottles filled with water, and our pool, which is dirty, but we use it to flush.

It is very difficult to get gas. Police guard the stations when fuel is delivered and you might wait half a day to get up to the pump just to have them say, ‘Too bad, we are out’.   I am grateful that we have a generator. We run it 4 hours a day to keep our fridge and light. I am grateful that we have had fuel for it. You can’t even buy gas containers as they are rationed. We can only by bread once a week and limited to 2 loaves at a time. Water is rationed by the case at the grocery store – 3 cases per family.

The ATM machines do not have power. For the past 6 months I have stashed small bills away because I have had such a feeling of foreboding. We have cash because of that. LISTEN TO THE SPIRIT. Get cash in small bills because the stores can’t make change and credit and debit cards often don’t work. I had to pay 5 dollars more for an item because they couldn’t make change for me.  And . . . PHONES ONLY WORK OCCASIONALY.

Believe it or not…I have not had a bath in 4 days, Today was the first day I got to wash my hair with pool water. I haven’t fixed my hair in a week!!! It just doesn’t matter anymore.  We cannot do laundry because we don’t have water. So, we wear our clothes until they are literally disgusting. When we do finally get water we will have to boil it since it is contaminated.

I am grateful for my parents. When we got low on generator fuel they drove 45 minutes to help us. They filled up their cans and brought us 10 gallons of fuel, which kept us going until this morning at 6:oo, am when we finally found some gas.

A prepared Family and a loving extended family is the key to survival and making it through right now. I know that my parents would drive to the end of the earth to help me and it’s nice knowing they are there. I know that I would do the same for my children.

I want all of you to know that I have such a testimony of following the counsel of our living prophet. There really is safety and peace in your heart if you are prepared. Please get your generators, 5 gas cans full of gas, canned goods, baby items, baby wipes to bathe, and all the water you can store…even if you have to trip on it in your home. Have your lanterns, crank flashlights, tarps, rope, etc. Ready to go because you never know when it will be your turn to endure the test. It’s overwhelming, but it’s going to be ok eventually. I have a home, I havefood, and I have water, because I listened to the counsel of the prophet. Please make sure you do the same. It’s time to have your life in order. Tomorrow may be too late.

 

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