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U.S. rice prices fall to historic lows

But drop in long grain stocks leaves room for improvement THE PRICE outlook for this year's rice crop depends a lot on whether you grew long or medium/short grain rice. But neither class looks too rosy, according to Nathan Childs, a USDA economist.

There is room for price improvement in long grain rice due to a 15 percent drop in ending stocks, according to Childs, addressing the USA Rice Outlook Conference in Las Vegas. On the downside, both domestic use and exports of long grain rice are expected to decline and prices for both long grain and medium/short grain are at historically low levels.

In the medium/short gain market, production, supplies and domestic use are expected to rise in 2000/01, while exports are forecast to remain steady. But rising stocks of medium/short grain rice are contributing to the big drop we're seeing in price from 1999/00, Childs says.

For total rice, Childs projects a 10 percent drop in exports for 2000/01, little change in ending stocks and fractionally higher domestic use.

U.S. rice production dropped 7 percent in 2000, mainly due to weaker plantings. Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi all reduced acreage in 2000, and all three produced smaller crops in 2000. However, record yields are projected in Mississippi this year, as well as in Texas and Missouri.

Long grain production dropped 14 percent in 2000, while medium/short grain rose for the third straight year. Import growth has slowed since 1996 reaching around 11 million hundredweight in 2000.

For the fourth straight year, U.S. rice consumption increased in 2000, and this is probably the rice industry's biggest success story. U.S. rice consumption has more than doubled in the last 20 years and now totals about 27.5 pounds per person annually.

In 2000, the domestic market accounted for around 60 percent of total U.S. rice use. On the other hand, U.S. rice exports are projected to drop in 2000/01 on weaker milled shipments. Rough rice exports are expected to remain at near-record levels in the current marketing year.

U.S. exports to Latin America dropped 26 percent in 1999/00 and food aid shipments have also declined. U.S. ending stocks, while not final for 2000, are projected to remain at 27 million hundredweight. By class, long grain stocks are projected at the lowest level since 1995/96, while medium/short grain stocks are projected to rise 20 percent.

The world price for long grain is the lowest on record at around $3.50 per hundredweight. The U.S. price difference over Thai 100 percent Grade B rice has widened significantly.

Longer term for the U.S. rice market, Childs projects slowly declining acreage, a small, but steady rise in yield, fractional growth in production, continued expansion in domestic use, declining exports and a slow rise in global and U.S. prices.

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