Episode 320: How Fear Turned A Surplus Into Scarcity


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Women in India harvesting rice. The global rice panic of 2008 started in India.

Women in India harvesting rice. The global rice panic of 2008 started in India. Anupam Nath/AP hide caption

toggle caption Anupam Nath/AP

Today on the podcast, the story of one of the most destructive and mysterious food shortages in recent memory. Colbert described it on his Threatdown segment:

The global food shortage is finally becoming an important story, because now it is affecting me. Costco and Sam's Club are now both rationing rice. You can't buy more than 80 pounds in a single visit. How am I supposed to make my famous kiddie pool paella?!?

The most mysterious thing about this shortage of rice: There was more than enough to go around.

It is the epic story of a shortage that wasn't.

In this global caper of good intentions gone wrong, there are shadowy trade deals, corrupt government officials, and warehouses full of rice in a country that didn't want it.

Note: Today's show is a rerun. It originally ran on November, 2010.

Music: Hey Marseilles's "Cannonballs." Find us:Twitter/ Facebook/ Spotify/ Tumblr. Download the Planet Money iPhone App.



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