From Sriracha to soba: why our favorite foods are rare

It doesn’t get much simpler than that. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Kate Krader

LONDON — Push a shopping cart through a supermarket and wherever you are in the world, chances are you’ll encounter gaping voids on the shelves. From basic items such as bread and butter to spicy meats, drinks and condiments, global consumers are faced with items that are missing, rationed or have risen in price.

A growing cost-of-living crisis, the lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Ukraine’s nearly six-month war and struggling global supply chains are among the reasons for grocery shortages.

Here are some beloved missing items from stores around the world:


1. USA: Sriracha Sauce

The spicy red hot sauce – loved for its sharp kick – is running out. Manufacturer Huy Fong Foods told die-hard fans that the condiment would be missing from shelves due to drought and extreme weather affecting chili crops. The California-based company said it hopes supplies can resume in the fall.

“I’m a big fan of Sriracha and I put it on everything,” Madeline Monroe, a DC-based designer, told The Washington Post, adding that she puts it in her pasta sauce, on grain bowls and in wraps. “I noticed on my last trip a week ago that there were no bottles of Sriracha in my local Safeway.”

Brian Beker, a writer from Vermont, told The Post that he had frantically rummaged through the shelves and looked for a replacement when he first noticed the shortages, but “finally, after two months of searching, I have found one last recalcitrant – an 8.5”. book pitcher and ordered this. I have never waited for the arrival of a package with more anxiety.

2. UK: Butter

Butter is a staple in British kitchens used in large quantities, not only smeared on bread but also in the country’s beloved cakes and biscuits. However, due to a continued shortage of foreign labor after Brexit, the golden yellow spread is missing from many store shelves. Dairy cooperative Arla Foods, which makes several brands of butter, has blamed a ‘chronic shortage of skilled farm workers’ for ‘undermining our food security’ and impacting the availability and soaring prices of butter and produce. dairy.

A kilo of butter from its Lurpak brand sold for nearly $12 in July, compared with around $8 in previous months. ”

Liz Oughton, a baker from central England, told the Washington Post that she regularly visits several supermarkets to look for the lowest prices and has switched to an oil-based spread to its biscuits, due to the “astronomical rise” in the cost of butter. .

“I get quite anxious every time I shop because the prices seem to go up so quickly,” said Oughton, founder of Bostin Bakery, famous for its Cherry Bakewell – a cookie made from marzipan, almond and cherries. “I’m doing my best not to raise our prices because I know everyone is feeling the pressure, including our customers.”

3. France: Mustard

The French are outraged by the widespread shortages and rationing of their beloved Dijon mustard. The spicy condiment used in sandwiches, salads and steak tartare has become rare.

“Boldness! exclaimed Claire Dinhut, who shared a local scandal of a neighbor overbuying the rationed item in a TikTok video that went viral.

Extreme weather and drought have crushed the supply of mustard seeds inside and outside France, with the impact of the pandemic still being felt in other countries’ global supply chains , mainly Canada. The shortage is also prompting calls to bring mustard seed production home and depend less on other countries.

“I haven’t had mustard in three months,” exasperated Parisian bodega owner Hassan Talbi told The Post. “You won’t find any.”

4. Lebanon: Bread

Lebanon was already crippled by a financial crisis and a port explosion in 2020 that wiped out its grain silos. Ukraine’s wheat export cut has worsened shortages of state-subsidized pita bread – disc-shaped breads found on tables across the Middle East.

Shortages have led to queues forming outside bakeries – sometimes with fights.

“It doesn’t just affect us as bakeries, but everyone. Bread is the most important thing,” said a worker at a bakery in Beirut, who asked not to be identified to speak candidly without permission from his employer. “People used to buy a lot of bread, and now they can come on a Sunday and find none. It’s upsetting.

Several other countries in the region, including Egypt and war-torn Yemen, which depended on Ukraine for wheat, also experienced shortages or price hikes.

Due to its status as a staple of local cuisine and its importance in poorer communities, bread, or rather its price, can often be political. The word Egyptians use for it – “aysh”, Arabic for “live” or “subsistence” – became part of a protest chant during the 2011 uprising.

5. Pakistan: Tea

Most Pakistanis sip the hot, milky caffeinated drink several times a day, but earlier this year the government urged them to cut spending to help the economy. “I call on people to reduce their tea consumption by one or two cups a day,” Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal told the nation in June. He said the country was struggling with low foreign exchange reserves needed to pay for imported tea.

The chai borders did not go well. Newspapers took to the headlines criticizing ‘austerity tea’, as a social media storm brewed online, with many vowing never to give up the drink and urging Iqbal to quit instead.

“Taking tea is part of the culture here. If we serve lavish food to the guests and don’t offer tea, the guest cares,” Farman Ullah Jan, a pharmacist from northern Pakistan, told The Post. In May, the country also imposed an import ban on dozens of non-essential luxury goods.

6. Australia: Eggs

Traditional ‘brekky’ fries may have a key product missing from plates in Australia as supermarkets impose purchase limits on egg cartons. The shortages and rationing are being blamed on the lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which has disrupted supply chains, and winter conditions which mean fewer eggs are being laid by free-range chickens.

“It’s hard to have poached eggs on toast or scrambled eggs on toast if you don’t have eggs,” Wes Lambert, director of the Australian Foodservice Advocacy Body told SBS News.

“We have a war in Europe which is affecting the supply chain, we have the weather in Australia and around the world, we have the rising cost of inputs . . . and finally, we have a severe shortage of labor work in Australia,” he added, a combination that “led to the perfect storm.”

7. Somalia: Cereals

A confluence of years of poor rainfall, drought and extreme heat, compounded by climate change, as well as conflict and war in Ukraine, is exacerbating a food crisis in Somalia, pushing many people to the brink of starvation. Prices of grain and wheat, the country’s staples used to feed families and livestock, have soared.

In the capital, Mogadishu, the cost of a 400 gram (14 ounce) box of wheat has doubled since February, while the price of other cereals, vegetables and fruits is also climbing. “After the start of the war in Ukraine, everything skyrocketed,” trader Hirsi Mohamed told the Post.

Although a handful of grain shipments left Ukrainian ports this month under a shaky UN-brokered deal with Russia, the full impact has yet to be felt in markets and The stores. “Communities are at a breaking point,” Mohamud Mohamed Hassan, country director for the charity Save the Children for Somalia, told The Post. “A lot of people would have survived if the Ukrainian crisis wasn’t there and the food was coming.”

8. Japan: soba noodles

Buckwheat from Russia, which is used to make Japan’s staple soba noodles, is another war casualty in Ukraine, impacted by the fragile global supply chain. The cost of buckwheat flour has increased by around 10-20% since June. Other elements used in soba, including oil and soy sauce, have also become more expensive.

Sniffed out by the millions every day and on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck and prosperity, the usually quick and cheap noodles disappeared from some menus or saw price hikes for the first time in decades.

“Soba is a very traditional food in Japan,” Junko Hayashi, who also runs cooking classes for tourists, told The Post. “There are definitely several soba restaurants even in a small town like my neighborhood, Omori.”

Noodle prices are also skyrocketing in China and South Korea, while an Indonesian economy minister raised concerns about the rising price of Indomie instant noodles at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year. . In Thailand, makers of five brands of instant noodles said this week they could not afford to keep their products as cheap as the Thai government wanted because of a price gap, due to rising of inflation.

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Julia Mio Inuma, Sarah Dadouch, Sudarsan Raghavan, Annabelle Timsit and Haq Nawaz Khan of The Washington Post contributed to this report.

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