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Restaurant owner says Indian rice ban ‘like banning bread in America’ for some Windsorites | CBC News


India’s ban on rice exports has left Windsor’s South Asian supermarkets and restaurants without a key ingredient many of their customers need for their recipes.

Shortages of non-basmati rice caused by rains and drought in rice-producing regions of India have sent prices soaring in the country. Last week the Indian government decided to ban exports of the rice to ensure their domestic supply.

The country will continue to export their basmati supply uninterrupted.

Namaste Indian Supermarket on Walker Road says when they got the news late last week, customers started emptying the shelves. He said the types of rice banned particularly affects the population from south India.

“I see rush coming into Namaste supermarket around 12 o’clock [Friday] and lifting 15 to 20 bags,” owner Parimal Parikh said.

“I tried to guide my customers not to stock it up because other people then don’t get it.” 

Man and woman holding rice bag
Leela Sai Krishna and Sowmya Reddy hold one of the five bags left of Sona Masoori rice left at Nawab’s Indian Cuisine restaurant. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Parikh said that right now he’s out of non-basmati rice products from India and while he does expect to get more, he does expect prices to rise. He said he will be trying his best to limit how much customers purchase.

“We have enough rice in Canada to survive four to six months, it’s just that people create a panic situation and that gives an advantage to the wholesalers,” Parikh said.

“They know that people are going to pay now as much as they want so they’re increasing the price and holding the stuff with them.”

At Nawab’s Indian Cuisine on Wyandotte West, the owner Sowmya Reddy is down to the last five bags of Sona  Masuri rice they have in stock.

“It’s like banning bread in America,” Reddy said. “It’s going to affect our individuals a lot, mostly, who are from the southern part of India. Their staple is Sona Masuri rice, which they are banning right now.”

Reddy said she’d be surprised if the rice lasted another week. Once it’s done, they will have to remove about 14 items from their menu. She is also concerned how people will be affected in their home kitchens.

“It’s OK to take it off the menu, but it’s not OK to take it aside from your diet,” she said.

Not a ‘short-term initiative’

Mark von Massow, a food economist at the University of Guelph, said that he believes consumers in developing countries will be most affected by the ban.

He said Canada imports just over half a billion dollars of rice per year, and roughly 20 per cent of that is from India.

“Only a very small fraction of that are these lower quality varieties that are banned,” he said.

“Especially in some of these specialty stores where people buy something that is familiar or usual, we’ll see some increases in those prices but if you are flexible in substitution you should be able to buffer it here in Canada.”

Hand holding rice
About 14 recipes at Nawab’s Indian Cuisine may have to be cut from the menu that use Sona Masoori. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

When asked about how long this will last, von Massow said given the increase in variability and intensity of extreme weather events, it’s very difficult to predict how long it would take for the market to normalize. He doesn’t, however, see this move as a “short-term initiative” by the Indian government. 

“You don’t sort of ban exports for a week or two,” he said. “What it will require is for the Indian production to return to more normal levels and then you’ll see prices come down.”


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