Add Sacramento Valley sticky rice to the list of things like artichokes and beer that doesn’t taste like baking soda that are being threatened by California’s drought. The idea of less sticky rice may not stir strong feelings until you realize that the majority of American sushi restaurants depend on it. And now they’re getting nervous.
According to the California Rice Commission’s numbers, rice farmers planted 25 percent fewer acres than they did last year, and while they typically flood between 250,000 and 300,000 acres every winter, it may be as few as 50,000 this year because of the drought. (The fields also provide a habitat for lots of spectacular migratory birds, too, so there’s that too.) Because Sacramento Valley rice “makes or breaks sushi” nationwide, restaurants are reluctant to buy from elsewhere, even though owners already report an 8 percent spike in prices. Expect that to climb higher in coming months, and perhaps a lot more sashimi.