In Britain rice is being rationed by shopkeepers in Asian neighbourhoods to prevent hoarding. Tilda, the biggest importer of basmati rice, said that its buyers — who sell to the curry and Chinese restaurant trade as well as to families — are restricting customers to two bags per person.
It is the first time that US retailer Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer which owns Asda, has introduced rationing in the US. While Americans suffered some rationing during the Second World War for items such as petrol, light bulbs and stockings, they have never had to limit consumption of a key food item.
I hope international food aid programmes will be able to reach those most desperately in need, and that we as individuals will support food aid appeals. I personally want to do something of value to help. All I can do right now is write about it and voice my concerns, and hope that something will turn up where I can be more proactive in making a difference, to help families like these highlighted in today’s Times:
Lake Naivasha camp, Kenya
Virginia Ndungu, a 55-year-old mother of eight, watches her daughter stir a blackened pot of cornmeal gruel in front of a tent in a refugee camp where they have lived since January (Nick Wadhams writes). This is tonight’s meal, and there will be no bread, no meat, and no tea.
Camps like this are the front line in the global crunch over rising food prices. “I have nothing, not even ten cents – how can I afford sugar for porridge,” said Ms Ndungu, who farmed chickens but was displaced during Kenya’s postelection violence.
Like hundreds of shoppers who crowd into Guara market on the outskirts of Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, Antonia da Souza complained about the startling increases in the cost of food (Gabriella Gamini writes). “The price of rice has doubled, bread too. Tomatoes have tripled and black beans are 30 per cent more expensive,” she said. “I would have to spend three times as much I used to six months ago to get my weekly shopping needs, but salaries have not gone up so I can only half fill my shopping basket.”
Every morning the price of milk sends Shankar Vemula into a state of despondency. Mr Vemula, 40, a driver, lives with his wife, five children and his parents-in-law in a tiny one-room house. “Our morning litre of milk now costs 35 rupees (45p),” Mrs Vemula says. Three months ago it cost 18 or 20 rupees. The cost of everyday staples has soared. A bunch of spinach used to cost one or two rupees in the market, now it is seven or eight rupees, Mrs Vemula says. Brinjal, or aubergine, an Indian favourite, is now 30 rupees per kilogram – six months ago it was 15 rupees.
And in Britain:
It is mid-morning and the car park of the Aldi supermarket in Melksham, Wiltshire, is almost full. The German chain is benefiting from increases in food prices, welcoming customers who previously shopped at Sainsbury’s or Somerfield.
Paul and Tracy Jones are new faces at Aldi, having driven six miles from their home in Corsham. They have a monthly food budget of £400 for themselves and their three children. Paul said: “We have definitely noticed the increase in food prices. Everything has gone up, even here. We are paying 30p to 40p more for a chicken than we were a year ago.”
*I have no idea how a family of five can live on £400 food budget a month, I would find it impossible. My boys and husband turn their noses up at anything that has Tesco Value stamped on it.
Have you any idea how much you spend on food each month?