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India’s rice export ban means shoppers see empty shelves

A sign at the Apna Bazar warns customers that they are allowed to purchase only one bag of rice per family. (Shiara Naveen/YJI)

Norwood, Massachusetts, U.S.A. – The eating habits of many people who rely on rice could be changing after the Indian government’s decision to ban the export of non-basmati rice.

At Apna Bazar, an Indian grocery store in Walpole, signs tell shoppers that they are limited to a single bag of rice per family.

Normally stocked with bags of rice, shelves stood depleted of most of the stock.

Employee Alpesh Patel explained the impact of the ban on his customers.

“It’s hard for people to switch over to different kinds of rice when they’ve been eating the same one for most of their lives,” Patel said.

The Apna Bazar, an Indian grocery in Norwood, Massachusetts. (Shiara Naveen/YJI)

Changing from rice to a different grain such as quinoa isn’t easy, according to Patel.

The Indian government ban on the export of non-basmati rice took effect July 20, according to the Foreign Agricultural Service, a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The ban does not include parboiled rice.

The bans covers almost half of the rice that India exported last year, according to the USDA.

Non-basmati rice isn’t only eaten by Indian people, but it’s consumed widely across the globe.

According to Reuters, India is the world’s largest rice exporter, sending rice to more than 140 countries. It accounts for more than 40% of world rice exports, more than the Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan and the United States combined, Reuters reported.

Al Jazeera reported an increase in global rice prices of 15 to 25% since the ban.

For loyal consumers of Indian grown non-basmati rice, the ban is distressing.

Some people have been rushing to their local stores buying as much rice as they can to stock up, according to Patel. He said that’s led to customers complaining about empty shelves.

Al Jazeera reported that India instituted the ban because of inflation, rising food prices and other factors, including weather-related conditions and an upcoming election.

Shiara Naveen is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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