The world rice supply and use shows production of 473 million metric tons. That’s record production, something seen for the last several years.
“We’ve also had record disappearance” said Carl Brothers, Riceland Foods senior vice president at the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show in Memphis on Feb. 28. “Because of that it has reduced ending stocks to 105 million metric tons.
“If you go back to the late 1990s, we were flooded with rice in the world. The higher the stocks-to-use number, the more available rice there is in the world.”
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At that time, Brothers told a full house, “there were some problems with the Asian crops and the stocks-to-use ratio dropped down to a low of 16.9 percent in the 2007-2008 period. At that time, both India and Vietnam banned rice exports from their countries. But we’re clawing our way out of that low stocks-to-use ratio, although that’s still at around 20 percent in the world.”
What about major export shifts?
Considering 2010-2011, Thailand was the number one exporter. “It had been the top exporter for a number of years – probably since the early 1980s.
“If you look at export trade, it has increased dramatically. Back in 1980 the United States was the number one exporter in the world at something like 3.1 to 3.2 million metric tons. But the amount of rice traded in the world was quite small. Of all the rice produced at that time, only about 12 million tons that entered world trade. So, we were a significant supplier in the world.”
Since then, the world rice trade has increased almost four-fold while the United States has remained rather flat. “I made a presentation for the (Riceland) board a few years ago and said, ‘if you really think that through – if your market had grown three or four times and yet you remained flat – I’d say you were in a dying business.’
“But in our case, we were seeing domestic disappearance. As more and more (immigrants) arrive, particularly in our coastal areas, we see much more rice consumption in the United States. It’s also going into pet food, in beer, and almost every restaurant in the country. Back 30 years ago, you wouldn’t have seen that.”
India exported 2.8 million tons in 2011 and is now number one at 10 million metric tons. “That’s a big shift.”
Thailand, at 10.7 million metric tons in 2011 and 8.5 million tons in 2013-2014, is typically in the top three rice exporters in the world. That drop to 8.5 isn’t because Thais don’t have the rice, said Brothers.
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“The prime minister came in on a platform calling for increasing farmer income. She introduced a program similar to our loan program back in the 1980s when farmers were paid $4 per bushel for rice going into loan. It wouldn’t clear out at $4, so the U.S. government took over rice left and right.
“The same is happening in Thailand, except they paid the equivalent of $10 per bushel on a rough rice basis. On a milled rice basis it’s about $850 per ton. That rice just won’t clear the market and they’re struggling to remain a main exporter. And they’re building stocks, something we’re concerned about.
“What happened with prices when the international stocks-to-use ratio was at 35 percent and then they collapsed to 16.9? The price skyrocketed. On a milled rice basis, prices went over $1,000 per ton. That didn’t last very long – remember India and Vietnam put on bans and everyone panicked.”
U.S. and Asian rice prices are the widest in history. “We’re hanging around $600 to $650 per ton with the Asians at about $400 per ton.”
What about planted acres in 2013 compared to what’s expected in 2014?
“One thing that jumps out at me is the small crops we’ve had the last three years. Arkansas, in particular, raised almost 1.8 million acres in 2010. (In 2013, that number had dropped to under 1.1 million acres). That was a big shift due to the corn and bean prices rallied.”
Brothers showed the top varieties and yields grown in the United States in 2013. “One of the things that’s disturbing to me about this is there were 25 different varieties. … We keep talking about IP in rice. If we continue to grow this number of varieties I think it’s almost impossible to IP to a great extent.”
The most popular 2013 variety grown: CL XL 745 with 24.5 percent of the class. The highest milling yield variety was CL 152 with a 63.4/69.1.
Brothers paused to explain milling. “You take 100 pounds of rice. Using the example of CL 152, you end up with 63.4 pounds of whole-grain, the most valuable part of the rice we can sell. The difference between 63.4 and 69.1 is the fractions that occur in the milling process. The difference up to 100 pounds is about 20 pounds of bran and about 10 pounds of hulls. Bran and hulls have more limited value.”
The good news is 2013 was “a wonderful quality crop. We didn’t have record milling yields but did have very strong milling yields. Our whole-grain yield was up 6.5 percent. … There was low chalk, low peck and excellent milling yields.”
Are the USDA numbers accurate?
For 2012, Arkansas producers had 166 bushels per acre, a number that increased two bushels in 2013. For the Louisiana the numbers were 143 and 162 bushels. Mississippi producers saw a rise from 160 in 2012 to 164 in 2013. All were records.
Brothers finds the Louisiana numbers suspicious. “We’ve been questioning the National Agricultural Statistics Service and whether they’ve been picking up the second ratoon crop. I think they’ve been pressing farm communities more to include that second crop. I don’t know the numbers have jumped that much.”