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Trade issues indicate record rice imports

Rice imports are up, challenges for exports

Ron Smith, Editor

November 18, 2019

2 Min Read
Volatility in Arkansas rice acreage creates stress in industry infrastructure, says an Arkansas agriculture economist.Ron Smith

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."

Related:Volatility challenges rice industry infrastructure

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."

About the Author(s)

Ron Smith

Editor, Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 30 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Denton, Texas. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and two grandsons, Aaron and Hunter.

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