Rice shortage hits Indian curry houses

February 14th, 2008 - 4:53 pm ICT by admin  

London, Feb 14 (IANS) Indian curries, Britain’s favourite dish, are set to become costlier because India and China are hoarding rice stocks for domestic consumption, an industry association has warned.

The warning by the Rice Association, which represents millers and importers, comes as the Bank of England Governor said people in Britain should prepare for a year of low economic growth combined with rising food and fuel prices.

Rice Association Director Alex Waugh said rising rice prices would hit Britain’s Bangladeshi community the hardest.

Numbering around half a million, Bangladeshis not only consume rice as a staple, but many among them depend on the curry restaurant business for their livelihood.

Alongside, the independent Immigration Advisory Service said Wednesday that government rules discouraged restaurant owners from hiring chefs from the Indian subcontinent.

Waugh said prices were up 60 percent year-on-year and the price of basmati rice, a popular variety in Britain, had almost doubled.

“The big producers like China and India have restricted their exports so that price rises don’t hit their own people so much.

“Now the main countries exporting rice are really just the US and Thailand and we have seen rapidly declining stocks over the last few years.

“If you are a restaurant owner and you are buying a lot of rice, you either reduce your margins or you put your prices up. A cost increase of that magnitude is going to feed through and this will probably see the price of a curry increase.”

Britain is the largest importer of rice in the European Union, accounting for 20 percent of all rice and half of all basmati imports.

British imports totalled 178,000 tonnes last year, followed by the Netherlands (16 percent), France (15 percent) Italy (10 percent) and Germany (9 percent).

“Increased grain and energy costs have been at the root of higher UK food prices reported in recent months,” Waugh added.

Bank of England Governor Mervyn King warned Wednesday that the key challenge for Britain this year was that while the global credit crunch would dampen demand, rising food and energy prices will push up inflation.

“Both developments are now more acute than in November. As a result the near-term outlook is one of inflation rising sharply alongside a marked slowing in growth,” he said.

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