Nowadays, the west is consuming more and more of the stuff, what with all our 'healthy' eating, takeaways, penchant for foreign foods and, lest we forget, shelf-life of dried products that can be stored for lengthy periods of time in a bid to beat inflation and save us all some money.
Then we still have the pet trade, which has been (still is) diversifying at an alarming rate, choosing to include rice in many more pet food products under assorted headings, such as 'hypo-allergenic' or 'as recommended by the veterinary profession'.
Add to that the apparent increase in medical conditions such as gluten intolerance etc, etc, etc...
Rice, when we look at the overall picture and allow for things like exchange rate fluctuations, is one of the things that has been increasing in price over the past 4 years.
Increased demand might be what's pushing up the price, but all the other factors involved in the growing, harvesting, shipping, packaging and general production costs add up to a fair whack.
This time in 2007, the metric tonne price on the commodities market was sitting at around £165, but then it suddenly soared to over £500 within about 6 months of that. Since then, despite various fluctuations, it hasn't, to my knowledge, reduced price in the supermarkets.
It's now steadily climbing back up, which means the profit margins will be squeezed: shareholders don't like losing out on dividends, so the only thing left for the big supermarkets (dictators of grocery prices, in my opinion) to do will be to increase the retail prices accordingly.
At the moment, I think the import price of rice is around £390 per tonne, but it is still climbing.
If things get tough in the grocery shopping stakes, we can do many more things with rice and homegrown veg than we can with peanut butter.