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Rice bowl craziness as people panic buy for no good reason

Fake Rice Crisis Triggers Shortage, Jobs Exodus

Thursday, April 24, 2008
THE RICE ''CRISIS'' on Phuket is sparking some unexpected consequences but the experts say the island's shortage is self-inflicted, caused by panic buying.

At least one construction company has blamed the rice shortage for a reduction in its staff.

The highly-regarded Thai workers took a break over the Songkran holiday. Many of them returned to their home villages in Isarn, and a sizeable number did not come back.

The construction boss was told that the price of rice on Phuket was too high, and rice hard to find, so they'd decided not to return.

At least, that's what the construction boss told his farang employer.

While the price of a five kilo bag of rice has risen 20 to 30 baht since Songkran, restaurants have yet to complain that they cannot serve customers.

The shortage, it seems, is solely in the minds of consumers and triggered by the way they react.

In some restaurants, Phuketwan has been told, staff think there's a shortage, so waiters and waitresses have been piling extra on their plates with their free meals . . . then finding they cannot eat it all.

Around the stores and supermarkets of Phuket, rice is difficult to find on the shelves. Here's an island wrapup:

Makro: No rice of any grade or type. Supplies have been on order for some time but no deliveries have arrived recently.

Tesco Lotus: Still some rice on the shelves but only some grades. Regular delivery orders have not been met.

Big C: No rice. Staff have talked to Bangkok suppliers, but the prices being quoted are rising rapidly.

Grade A rice has virtually vanished from Phuket.

The Trade Department of Phuket is carefully monitoring the amount of supplies of rice and prices, comparing their regular statistical analysis from past months with the crisis prices of April.

A spokeswoman for the department said the amount of rice arriving on Phuket before Songkran and now had not altered dramatically.

There were 10 companies that imported rice to Phuket. All of them are required to report their import figures to the department.

Department officials have been checking households at random in a survey to see how customers are reacting to the perception that rice might soon be in short supply.

''The shortage is entirely due to stockpiling,'' the spokeswoman said.

''People on Phuket are buying a lot more rice than they usually do. So some of the shelves in the stores and supermarkets are bare.''

The department says there is no shortage of government rice supplies in storage in Bangkok.

Like oil, rice prices are subject to global pressures and the prices were going up now because of demand in other countries.

If there was a real problem with rice supplies to Phuket through the 10 companies, the department would be able to call on department stocks in Bangkok, the spokeswoman said.

She added that panic buying often cost the customers money. Rice stored badly at home frequently went off on the shelves before people could eat it.

She urged buyers to only shop for their immediate needs and not stockpile rice, for many good reasons.


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Wednesday August 17, 2022
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