Sushi rice prices are surging in the UK as Europe faces an “unprecedented” shortage in the wake of last summer’s heatwave.
Wholesale prices for EU-grown sushi rice are in double-digit growth, according to Eurostar Commodities MD Philip Bull. Sourced from northern Italy alongside a host of other rice varieties and round grains, kintaro premium grade sushi rice is the most popular variant by volume in the UK retail, wholesale and foodservice markets.
The variety is harvested around autumn, then milled and stored for distribution throughout the year. But a drop in yields after last summer’s excessive heat has caused concerns supplies will run short ahead of next season’s harvest. The summer’s issues were compounded by unseasonable cold, rain and snow during the April planting season, leaving planted area lower than previous years.
“Conservative estimates put yields down 15% and overall crop down 10% on last year, but it’s likely to be much higher,” says Bull.
“With yields down and prices up, it is a challenge to bring the UK’s consumers the quality rice they demand. There are options to top up supplies from the US and Far East, but duties and the US trade war will impede the commercial viability of bringing those products to the UK.”
However, the quality of the remaining rice stock currently being milled has escaped significant damage as a result of the drought, Bull adds. As rice needs a lot of water during growth phases, it is grown in exceptionally wet paddy fields, which take longer to dry out than average arable and grain fields.
It comes as a blow amid the booming popularity of sushi counters in British retailers, which has seen mults including Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, M&S and Tesco roll out concessions.