Recent USDA reports indicate at least a slight imbalance between rice imports and exports. Imports are up and exports shown potential, but potential challenges loom over the market.
Bobby Coats, economist, Arkansas Department of Agriculture, says USDA reports 2019-20 U.S. all rice imports are at a record level, 29.6 million cwt, up 2 percent from a year earlier. "Through August 2019, total imports were up 22 percent at 76,569 tons from a year earlier."
Long-grain imports in 2019-20 remain forecast at a record 24 million cwt, up 2.5 percent from a year earlier. "Aromatic varieties from Thailand, India, Pakistan, and Vietnam account for the bulk of U.S. long-grain rice imports," Coats says.
Through August 2019, the U.S. imported 66,880 tons of long-grain rice, up 26 percent from August 2018, with Thailand accounting for almost all of the increase.
USDA is reporting that U.S. 2019-20 rough rice export projections remain close to the previous marketing periods level of 33.0 million cwt. "Long-grain shipments to Latin America, as in previous periods, account for the bulk of U.S. rough rice exports, with Mexico and Central America the top markets," Coats says.
"Year after year over the past five years, the United States has lost market share in these Latin American markets to our South American export competition, due in large part to our lack of price competitiveness. In 2018-19, the United States regained some market share in Mexico and returned as a major supplier to Nicaragua, where minimum or no sales over the past six years had occurred. Historically, or at least not too many years ago, Nicaragua was an important U.S. rice export market destination."
The medium grain market is a little problematic since currently Libya and Mexico are the only markets for medium- and short-grain rough rice exports, Coats says. "Mexico, a dominantly U.S. long-grain market, is also a small buyer of medium- and short-grain rice. Prior to 2017-18, Turkey was a consistent buyer of U.S. medium- and short-grain rough rice, but political and policy differences between the U.S. and Turkey have stood in the way of additional purchases."