It’s not your imagination: The price of rice is way up

The price of rice has jumped 40% in just the last two years, according to the Hawaii Restaurant Association.
Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 6:04 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The price of rice has jumped 40% in just the last two years.

And that’s spurring tough calculations for family households and eateries.

The Hawaii Restaurant Association says most Hawaii distributors import their rice.

The group believes the sharp rise in prices felt by restaurants and seen at the grocery stores is due to fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted rice production, increased production costs and worsened labor shortages.

Some eateries have already had to raise prices last year due to inflation but are reluctant to raise them more.

“They understand that our local families are within budget and they want those families. They are afraid if they raise those prices, they may not come back,” said Sheryl Matsuoka, Hawaii Restaurant Association president.

UH economic researchers say global inflation has taken a toll on the islands.

But they add they’re seeing positive signs and expect inflation to come down.

“Most of these prices have stopped growing so relief is in sight,” Carl Bonham, executive director of the UH Economic Research Organization. “Doesn’t mean prices are falling but for some items prices are falling.”

He added, “Our forecast for overall inflation is that it’s going to continue to come down.”

It’s those predictions that have Hawaii restaurants hopeful and holding off on more price increases.

Dr. Chris Kuehl, managing director of Armada Corporate Intelligence, said there are a host of global factors impacting rice production ― and prices.

“Demand is up in most of Asia and harvests have been down somewhat due to floods in China. South Asian rice distributors are hoarding. Freight costs are rising and China has started to reduce imports of wheat, corn and soybeans as they try to limit imports, forcing more dependence on rice,” he said.

“Even lack of farm labor has been a factor.”

The UHERO full economic forecast for the first quarter of 2023 for Hawaii can be found here.