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Arkansas rice acreage may fall in 2006

For Arkansas rice producers the 2005 rice season was one of amazing productivity achievement which was accomplished under extraordinarily difficult climatic conditions. Sure, yields and quality were down off their record highs, but our producers’ ability to overcome climatic difficulties of a wet 2004 fall, a cool wet spring, a historic drought in May and June and climatic harvesting difficulties on part of their rice crop was more than a little impressive and underscores our producers’ commitment to continued productivity gains.

That said, maintaining reasonable productivity in a hostile 2005 climatic environment was extremely expensive, primarily due to energy price increases not experienced in 25 years. This was devastating to Arkansas producers’ cash flow statements.

In 2005 Arkansas rice producers harvested an estimated record 1.64 million acres, a 4.8 percent increase in acreage over 2004’s 1.56 million acres. Their 2005 yield is estimated at 147 bushels or 6,610 pounds per acre, which is slightly below last year’s record 154 bushels or 6,910 pounds per acre.

The top five 2005 Arkansas long grain harvested acre rice counties were Arkansas with 119,167 acres, Cross with 106,200 acres, Poinsett with 101, 381 acres, Lawrence with 100,079 acres, and Jackson with 85,819 acres.

The top five 2005 Arkansas medium grain harvested acre rice counties were Poinsett with 31,912 acres, Jackson with 14,170, Lawrence with 8,983 acres, Craighead with 7,165 acres, and St. Francis with 6,056 acres.

In 2005 Arkansas long grain rice producers harvested a record 1.53 million acres and medium grain producers harvested 104,000 acres. The medium grain rice acreage was below the average of the previous four years of 157,000 acres because of the improvements in long grain productivity options.

My present expectation for the 2005 Arkansas long and medium grain rice price outlook for the 2005-06 marketing period of Aug. 1, 2005, to July 31, 2006, is a cash price of $3.16 per bushel or $7.02 per hundredweight. For Arkansas medium grain a cash price of $4.28 per bushel or $9.50 per hundredweight is expected.

Now turning to the 2006 rice production season and marketing period outlook, high energy prices have significantly increased the per acre rice operating costs by an average of $80 per acre. This huge increase in operating costs, if sustained into the 2006 production season, will limit the planting of rice acreage with below average yields unless some type of adjustments such as improving land productivity and/or adjusting rental rates are made.

My present expectation for the 2006 Arkansas rice harvested acres is as follows:

• 1.39 million Arkansas all rice harvested acres: 250,000 acre reduction or a decrease of 15 percent from 2005.

• 1,23 million Arkansas long grain rice harvested acres: 300,000 acre reduction or a decrease of 20 percent from 2005.

• 155,000 Arkansas medium grain rice harvested acres: 51,000 acre increase or an increase of 49 percent from 2005.

My present price expectation for the 2006 Arkansas long grain rice is $3.26 per bushel or $7.25 per hundredweight and medium grain is $3.94 per bushel and $8.75 per hundredweight.

A slide show that accompanies this article is available on the Internet at

Bobby Coats is an agricultural policy analyst with the University of Arkansas.

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