The Price of Rice: Is It Nice?

I haven?t seen much discussion here about some of the weirder effects of the May 1 EU expansion. As one of the representatives of ?New Europe? (a moniker I generally loath) that’s partly my fault, as I?ve had zero time to post recently.

I was unable to come up with any news links about the following topic, since every search involving ?rice? invariably spits out stories about Condoleezza Rice. But yesterday I heard a rumor that the price of rice (yes, rice) is going to shoot up something like 100% in the Czech Republic come May 1. Legions of Czech babičky ? the little old ladies that are the lifeblood of Czech society ? have therefore begun hoarding rice.

My initial reaction: What a load of hooey. I?ve seen stories on CNN about similar rumors spreading in, I believe, Estonia or Latvia, and they?re generally not true, and it?s only natural they should repeat here.

Regardless, this seems to confirm my opinion (which I?ve expressed a few times in this space) that the EU is doing a terrible job of selling itself to the accession countries, who genuinely want to believe that integration will bring something good, but are having a harder and harder time seeing past what’s perceived to be an over-regulation of everyday life.

As a Prague restaurant owner, I do know that ground beef is now much harder to come by compared to two months ago. (As a vegetarian, that?s fine with me; as a capitalist, it?s not.) The reason given by suppliers: New EU-imposed rules require meat suppliers to send weekly samples of ground beef to an outside testing agency, because if you?re buying 100% ground beef, you?re likely serving steak tartare, and you gotta be careful with that stuff. Now I’d always recommend our tasty tofu burger over the beef, but am I way out of my league by asking: Has anybody in Brussels ever heard of a hamburger? Who says you’re serving steak tartare just because you’re buying ground beef?

I hate to always be calling attention to the botched aspects of EU expansion, but I do so as a genuinely pro-integrationist non-European observer.

4 thoughts on “The Price of Rice: Is It Nice?

  1. It’s a shame also that the fuss about Condoleezza Beef prevented a search to corroborate your suppliers’ story. The closest I can get is this, which doesn’t mention any weekly testing…

  2. I honestly don’t know if the ground beef testing story is true. I do know that it’s suddenly next to impossible to get 100% ground beef — with all suppliers, not just one or two. Mixed meat is OK, but not 100% ground beef. So something happened. It actually wouldn’t surprise me terribly if some bored bureaucrat here in Kafkaville made up the regulation and then, when somebody questioned it, blamed it on the EU.

    Anyway, here’s that Latvian salt-hoarding link I mentioned.

    For instance, in the past few weeks, rumors have swept Latvia that salt — imported from Ukraine and used for pickling vegetables — would be prohibited once the country becomes part of the EU.

    Hoarding began, with some stores selling 50 times more salt than usual. Vinegar and sugar sales rose too.

  3. In Estonia there were two slight scares.

    The first one concerned sugar and is actually not with out merit. It seems that the price of sugar will rise in Estonia by about 50% because most of it is imported from the EU which subsidies export of sugar. When Estonia joins the EU we lose the subsidies. Companies that use a lot of sugar started buying up large quantities of the stuff and were actually warned to stop doing it or face fines.

    The second scare did concern salt, however. As with many such things, a rumor started god knows where and overwhelmed a lot of people in rural areas who started buying salt like crazy. Once the local papers started investigating it soon became quite clear that the price of table salt would not change.

    Over all the government is doing a nice job of convincing most people that prices of most goods will not change.

  4. I wish that were the case here, J?ri. Thanks.

    P.S. I think I wasn’t clear enough in my original post. My restaurant, Tulip Cafe, is definitely NOT serving steak tartare. That was the impression Tim Worstall got from my post. He thought we were trying to use commercially produced ground beef for a tartare and responded with a properly disgusted “Erkk.” In fact, the whole point is that there are plenty of other uses for 100% ground beef besides steak tartare, and while I’m all for strict hygiene controls, I honestly don’t see why beef has to be ground on the premises — especially as they have no problem selling ground mixed meat (50% pig, 50% cow) which frankly, sounds even more disgusting. (If that’s not prohibited in Leviticus, it really should be.) Christ, I can’t believe I’m here discussing the finer points of ground meat. Finer, get it? Hehe.

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