Taking the good with the bad in rice in 2015-16: Part I

There’s good news/bad news and bad news/good news for producers in Arkansas – and other rice-growing states – as they begin 2016. The good in the good news/bad news scenario is they harvested 96 million hundredweight of rice on 1.296 million acres in 2015.

The bad, according to Bobby Coats, professor and agricultural economist with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, is they could have harvested 117 million hundredweight if bad weather and potential global economic issues had not interfered.

The bad in the bad news/good news category: Even though Arkansas’ 2015 acreage was down 7 percent from 2014 and production was 2 percent below the 15-year average (98 million hundredweight) for the state’s yields, rice prices are still not where many farmers would like for them to be.

And the good, if you want to call it that: More than one grower attending the 2015 USA Rice Outlook Conference in New Orleans said rice appears to be “the crop I could lose the least money on” in 2016.

“Without weather and potential global issues the potential total acres including failed and prevented acres would have been 1,585,000 acres,” says Dr. Coats, who presented the state outlook report for Arkansas at the conference. (Ag economists and research leaders from Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Texas and California gave reports.)

According to USDA’s Farm Service Agency, Arkansas farmers reported 18,837 failed and 269,689 prevented planted acres in 2015. Almost all of the lost acres were due to adverse weather conditions in April and May.

As was widely speculated prior to the start of the 2015 planting season, Arkansas growers could have planted significantly more medium grain rice in 2015 if weather and international markets had been more encouraging.

“In 2015, Arkansas medium grain rice harvested acreage is estimated at 240,000 acres,” said Dr. Coats. “The potential acres including failed and prevented (of 70,000 acres) would have come in at a whopping 307,000 acres.”

Medium grain rice production in Arkansas totaled 17.8 million hundredweight on the 240,000 acres estimated to have been harvested, which was up from the average for the previous 14 years of 156,000 acres.

Arkansas’ 2015 long grain rice acreage is estimated at 1.055 million, 210,000 acres below 2014 and 110,000 below the average for the previous 34 years of 1.165 million acres. In 2015, long grain rice production is estimated at 78 million hundredweight.

Next: ‘Monster’ El Nino showing similarities to 1997-98: Part II

For more information on presentations at the USA Rice Outlook Conference, visit http://usarice.com/about/meetings/meeting-registration/2015-presentations.

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