Rice flour is typically derived from the broken rice grains that are fractured during the milling process. The broken grains are separated from the whole grains and sold as Broken Rice. The quality, cleanliness, taste and texture are the same as wholegrain rice, however ‘brokens’ are sold at a lower premium around the world.
Milled into flour, it is a commonly-used ingredient in baby food, many gluten-free products, noodles, desserts, soups, stews, coatings and batters. In fact, Eurostar said many consumers eat rice flour every day without realising it.
The perfect storm
According to the Yorkshire family business, the severe shortage of rice flour has been building for the past six months, thanks to a ‘perfect storm’ of multiple factors. Production in the Far East has been halved due to the coronavirus pandemic. Compounding this are supply challenges like container shortages and hiked freight costs.
And while demand in the UK has again increased as hospitality and food service sectors reopen, this, too, is being hampered by new Brexit-driven TCA (The EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement) regulations.
“There are 50% less ‘brokens’ available due to problems in the Far East, namely The Myanmar coup and the Covid-19 pandemic in India, which have slashed production in half,” said Eurostar’s ingredient expert Jason Bull.
“On top of that, we have a shortage of container and breakbulk vessel availability, increased freight costs as a result and taxation rates.
“We also have a new increased demand here in the UK from the hospitality and food service sectors as we reopen [but] new TCA regulations since Brexit decree that rice flour brought into the UK has to be made from European origin ‘brokens’.”
He added this has been going on for the last six months, so a price hike is expected to “hit shelves anytime soon.”
Eurostar said rice flour has gone up by 32% overall in the past six month. The company added that short supply has also forced manufacturers to make rice flour from long grain rice instead of ‘brokens’, which again will have a knock on effect on items that feature rice flour as a key ingredient.
“Expect up to a 10% increase on baby food this summer. Other products that feature rice flour as an ingredient will follow,” said Bull.