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Will grain price cake have rice icing?

The rice price is not always determined just from the numbers on the U.S. rice balance sheet. Rice may be affected by other grains in the period ahead. The corn price is reaching out for about 10 million additional acres in the United States this year. Corn is an alternative to rice, particularly if rice is only at $4.50 per bushel and corn is at that level or higher.

Despite everything hostile to growing rice, U.S. rice production for this coming year is projected to be down only 13 percent. But in the end, we apply the 80/20 rule — 80 percent of the useful information is in 20 percent of the data and most of that 20 percent is currently outside the United States rice balance sheet.

The prospect of burning grain as fuel is incredible, and I assume a global phenomenon. Corn is picking up industrial demand inside the United States at the rate of two U.S. rice crops per year.

Meanwhile, the rice price is firm in Asia, to say the least. The Vietnamese rough rice or paddy price closed the season at the 30-year high. A 30-year high in the United States would be about $15 per hundredweight.

There were offers recently in Thailand at about a nine-year high.

Chinese corn went to record highs this January.

So what does the U.S. rice market have that the Asian market does not? The difference is that in the United States, we have a futures market that goes for the truth in a ruthless way. As Chicago goes, so goes world grain, and as world grain goes, so goes rice. Here is why.

The market eats a whole-grain price cake. Usually, corn is on the bottom of the price cake, wheat is in the middle and rice is the icing.

Have you heard of turducken? It is a chicken wrapped in a duck inside a turkey. How about ricewheatcornen? That is rice stacked on wheat stacked on corn.

But lately, corn looks like it’s headed to $4.50 and wheat was recently at $5. Rice has been cheaper than wheat, yet world rice stocks continue to plunge.

In the end, over the next several years, expect wheat to dart to or above the corn price with rice rising above wheat.

Over the next three months, it will be interesting to get the GMO rice seed thing sorted out. At mid-January rice futures prices, your rice seed is already GMMO-free. That means “get my money out” of rice.

Putting any kind of burden on rice farmers at their decision point may chip away at rice acreage.

I dread to calculate next year’s carryover should U.S. rice production drop by even half of this year’s reported cut of 13 percent. We should remain on edge until USDA tells us what is likely to be planted in 2007, and that is still a long way off, unless you know the size of the corn acreage increase in 2007 and where all those acres will come from. I sure don’t.


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