Food shortages come home

American awareness of famines is generally limited to pictures on television or the internet of people starving in faraway places. Surely global food shortages and rising prices cannot affect Americans at home – or so went the thinking. No more.

Costco and Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club have placed limits on the amount of rice customers can buy. These limits are too high to affect the average consumer, but some businesses may be affected. The reasons for this limit, though, are worth noting. From the Washington Times:

Costco and other grocery stores in California reported a run on rice, which has forced them to set limits on how many sacks of rice each customer can buy. Filipinos in Canada are scooping up all the rice they can find and shipping it to relatives in the Philippines, which is suffering a severe shortage that is leaving many people hungry.

While it is difficult to nail down the specific causes in terms of what bears the greatest amount of responsibility for these high prices, it is worth noting that many experts point to the global hoarding and speculative buying of these goods as well as policies promoting the use of corn for ethanol production. It is also worth noting that this issue is starting to create domestic fears.

NDN Globalization Initiative Policy Director Maggie Barker recently blogged on the causes of these high prices, and I wrote about the political turmoil they are creating globally.