Sushi eaters could face sticker shock the next time they order a California roll or check the box for another round of tempura.
Thanks to the historic drought in California, prices may spike for the specialty rice used in the popular Japanese dish. Production of the rice, which is grown primarily in the Golden State, is expected to drop by 25 percent this year.
California – and the Sacramento Valley in particular – is the nation’s primary source for the high-quality short- and medium-grain rice used in sushi and is a major supplier of the rice for other countries, too. But the state’s 2,500 rice growers this year planted just 420,000 acres, about a quarter fewer than usual, because farmers weren’t allowed to use water for more, according to the California Rice Commission.
California farmers are beholden to a patchwork of local, state and federal water sources that distribute their annual water supply. More and more farmers are getting less or even no water allocations as the drought drags through its third year.
“The biggest challenge is simply not enough rain and snowfall for multiple years, coupled with all of the demand from the most urban and top [farming] state in the U.S.,” California Rice Commission spokesman Jim Morris said. “Being in charge of the water allocations is a tough job right now: precious little water and many areas of need in our state.”
The drought has taken its toll on the vast majority of farmers in the country’s largest agriculture state. About a half-million acres that would normally be producing fruits and vegetables this year won’t be planted, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.
Read more at POLITICO.