If Sushi Prices Go Up, Blame Calif. Drought

State's specialty rice crop down 25% over lack of water
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 16, 2014 6:04 AM CDT
If Sushi Prices Go Up, Blame Calif. Drought
Sushi prices may go up thanks to California drought.   (Shutterstock)

Extreme drought conditions in California have caused residents to face government fines, paint their lawns, and stress about their beloved giant sequoias. Now the whole country might be joining in the state's water woes: Production of the special rice used in sushi, grown mainly in California, is set to decline by 25% in 2014 because farmers were limited to how many acres they could adequately water, Politico reports. Translation for the rest of us—sushi restaurants are going to have to decide whether to take the financial hit themselves or ask customers to pay higher prices for their tempura, tuna, and Tijuana rolls, according to a California Restaurant Association spokeswoman.

Most of the state is high and dry, categorized as being in "exceptional," "extreme," or "severe" drought conditions, the United States Drought Monitor indicates. A California Rice Commission spokesman says rice production could be down by more than a billion pounds, as per Politico, affecting restaurants and even schools that train sushi chefs. Rice is thriving in other parts of the country—overall rice production will be up 21% this year, according to AGWeb.com—but chefs are partial to the short-grain Japonica rice typically used in sushi dishes. Still, one general manager of a California rice co-operative worries, via Politico: "If the price gets too high, does the end user start going to substitute products or maybe an inferior rice?" (Read more California drought stories.)

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