LOS ANGELES, April 23 (Xinhua) -- Rice prices have
increased dramatically in recent weeks across the United States despite the
government's forecast that food prices would rise only 3.5 percent to 4.5
percent this year, reports said Wednesday.
As consumers concerned about rising rice prices, the
shelves at big-box warehouse stores like Sam's Club and Costco have been cleaned
out and the wholesale retailers are adopting policies to limit rice purchases by
Sam's Club announced Wednesday that customers will no
longer be allowed to purchase more than four bags of jasmine, basmati and
long-grain white rice per visit, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The retailer chain operated by Wal-Mart said the
policy was "effective immediately" across all of its U.S. stores.
Sam's Club blamed the new limits on "supply and
demand trends" and said it is working with suppliers "to ensure we are in stock,
and we are asking for our members' cooperation and patience."
Meanwhile, at least one Costco store in California
has also posted signs asking customers to hold back on their rice purchases and
follow their regular rice-buying habits, according to an NBC report.
The price of many foods, including beer, bread,
coffee, pizza and rice have risen rapidly recently in the United States as the
country contends with its worst bout of food inflation since the 1990s.
Most of the price spikes can be traced to rising
energy costs and the continuing weakness of the U.S. dollar, economists said.
Government data showed that rice price jumped by almost 10 percent last month.
With the exception of rising prices, the United
States has so far escaped the problems seen in other countries, where food
supply shortages have prompted protests, but the limits on bulk rice purchases
by a major retailer such as Sam's Club are the first sign of any spillover in
the country, the Los Angeles Times said.
Though the United States is one of the world's top
rice growers, Americans don't consume much of the grain. Between 40 and 50
percent of what the United States grows annually is exported.