Global Markets: Rice – EU Imports Rise, Suppliers Shift with Safeguard Tariffs

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Despite the application of a safeguard tariff to Burma and Cambodia, EU imports have been remarkably strong so far, sustaining its rank as the third-largest importer. With relatively stable production, the rising consumption has been largely met by foreign suppliers. Imports now slightly exceed milled production.

Growth in imports over the past several years has been mostly met by larger purchases from Burma and Cambodia. These countries have benefited from the EU Everything But Arms agreement, granting duty-free access to least-developed countries.

Following the transitional agreement for rice that lasted until 2006, shipments of rice from Cambodia and Burma expanded from virtually nothing to almost 700,000 metric tons (mt), over one-third of EU 2018 imports.

In January 2019, the European Union determined that the significant increase of indica rice from these two countries caused economic damage to European producers and thus re-introduced import duties. The duties are 175 euros/mt in 2019, falling to 150 and 125 euros/mt in 2020 and 2021, respectively. This has effectively caused these countries to compete on a more level playing field with other suppliers.

Surprisingly, EU data January through May indicate that imports are up by a third compared to the same time period last year. While imports from Cambodia are down 14 percent, imports from Burma are in fact up over 26 percent and the country remains the top supplier. However, the market share for these two has declined as imports from the rest of the world have grown.

With the safeguard tariffs in place, rice from other countries has become more competitive in the European Union. This is evident not only among other top suppliers such as Thailand, India, Pakistan, and Guyana, but also with newer exporters to the market such as Argentina, Paraguay, and China.

The United States continues to export nearly 60,000 tons annually, primarily to the United Kingdom. On a milled basis, the European Union is now expected to import 2.1 million tons in 2019.

Iraqi Rice Imports to Decline Amid Larger Crop

With favorable weather, Iraqi 2019/20 area planted to rice rebounded substantially and a large crop is expected with record yields. In turn, 2020 imports are expected to decline relative to 2019.

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Over the past several years, the market share has shifted substantially between Asian and Western Hemisphere suppliers. Among the major Asian suppliers, the share held by Thailand declined sharply in 2014, and in turn, India and Vietnam have expanded their presence.

Among the Western Hemisphere suppliers, the United States, Uruguay, and Argentina have tended to be significant suppliers, though Paraguay has recently also entered the market. Though the proportion of imports from the Western Hemisphere has been relatively weak thus far in 2019, U.S. outstanding sales remain large.

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