Rice Outlook: U.S. Production Projected at 216.2Mln Hundredweight

Sunrise over rice field at flood. ©Debra L Ferguson

The 2020/21 U.S. rice crop is forecast at 216.2 million cwt (hundredweight), up 17 percent from a year earlier, mostly due to a strong recovery in area. Imports are projected at another record, and total supplies are projected to be up 7 percent from 2019/20. Domestic and residual use is projected to be stronger in 2020/21, as are exports, boosting total use 3 percent.

Ending stocks are projected to increase 37 percent to 41.8 million cwt, yielding a more normal 17.6-percent stocks-to-use ratio. The long-grain season-average farm price (SAFP) is projected to decline in 2020/21, while medium- and short-grain SAFPs are projected unchanged from 2019/20.

Global production and consumption are projected to be record high, with ending stocks rising to a 14th consecutive high. Global trade is projected to increase 5 percent in 2021, as export restrictions and limitations are expected to be removed. India is projected to be the largest exporter and the Philippines the largest importer.

Domestic Outlook

U.S. Rice Crop Projected Up 17 Percent in 2020/21

The 2020/21 U.S. rice crop is projected at 216.2 million cwt, up 31.5 million cwt from a year earlier, a result of both larger area and higher yield. At 2.81 million acres, harvested area in 2020/21 is almost 14 percent larger than in 2019/20 when persistent rainfall nearly all spring sharply reduced plantings in much of the South, especially in the Delta.

The 2020/21 harvested- area estimate is based on the March 31 intended plantings reported by NASS and uses a 5-year Olympic average planted-to-harvested ratio by class. The first survey of actual plantings of the 2020/21 U.S. rice crop will be reported by NASS in the June Acreage, scheduled for release on June 30.

The 2020/21 average rice yield is projected at 7,699 pounds per acre, up 228 pounds from a year earlier and the highest on record. The yield is based on 20-year trends yield by class. The first objective yield forecast for the 2020/21 U.S. rice crop will be released on August 12 in the NASS Crop Production.

By class, long-grain rice production in 2020/21 is projected at 155.5 million cwt, up 24 percent from a year earlier. Almost all U.S. long-grain rice is grown in the South. The 2020/21 combined medium- and short-grain crop is projected at 60.7 million cwt, up 2.8 percent from a year earlier and the largest since 2011/12. About 80 percent of the U.S. medium- and short-grain crop is grown in California.

Progress of the 2020/21 U.S. rice crop remains behind normal in the Delta, a result of persistent rain and wet conditions. For the week ending May 10, 70 percent of the U.S. rice crop was reported planted, well ahead of last year’s rain-delayed 53 percent but slightly behind the U.S. 5-year average of 75 percent. Progress varied by region and State.

On the Gulf Coast, planting was nearly complete in Texas by May 10, with 95 percent of the crop reported in the ground, up from 82 percent a year earlier and the Texas 5-year average of 84 percent. Early planting bodes well for both a higher main-crop yield and a good quality ratoon crop.

Progress was only slightly slower in Louisiana, with 87 percent of the crop reported planted by May 10, 2 percentage points behind a year earlier and behind the Louisiana 5-year average of 93 percent.

In the Delta, the Arkansas crop was reported 67 percent planted by May 10, up from a year- earlier, rain-delayed 51 percent but well behind the Arkansas 5-year average of 82 percent. Missouri’s crop was reported 51 percent planted by May 10, fractionally behind a year earlier but well behind the Missouri 5-year average of 74 percent, a result of continued rain, wet conditions, and storm damage in some areas. Mississippi’s crop was reported 57 percent planted by May 10, 5 percentage points ahead of a year earlier but well behind the Mississippi 5-year average of 76 percent.

Finally, in California, 65 percent of the rice crop was reported planted by May 10, well ahead of last year’s rain-delayed 16 percent and well ahead of the California 5-year average of 35 percent. Conditions in California have been favorable for rice production this season, with adequate water availability.

Emergence of the 2020/21 U.S. rice crop remains behind normal as well, with the pace of emergence varying by State and region. For the week ending May 10, 43 percent of the U.S. 2020/21 rice crop had emerged, just 3 percentage points behind a year earlier but well behind the U.S. average of 57 percent.

On the Gulf Coast, 90 percent of the Texas crop had emerged by May 10, well ahead of both 72 percent a year earlier and the Texas 5-year average of 77 percent. In Louisiana, 82 percent of the crop had emerged by May 10, 2 percentage points behind a year earlier and 5 percentage points behind the Louisiana 5-year average. The Louisiana harvest is expected to begin by mid-July.

In the Delta, 42 percent of the Arkansas crop had emerged by May 10, 4 percentage points ahead of a year earlier but well behind the Arkansas 5-year average of 67 percent. In Missouri, 31 percent of the rice crop had emerged by May 10, 6 percentage points ahead of last year’s rain-delayed crop but well behind the Missouri 5-year average of 48 percent. Mississippi’s crop was reported 30 percent emerged by May 10, 6 percentage behind a year earlier and well behind the Mississippi 5-year average of 56 percent.

In California, 5 percent of the crop had emerged by May 10, 1 percentage point ahead of last year but still behind the California 5-year average of 9 percent.

U.S. Rice Supplies Projected Up 7 Percent in 2020/21

In 2020/21, a larger crop and a slight increase in imports are projected to more than offset a much smaller carryin, boosting total U.S. rice supplies 31.5 million cwt to 279.3 million cwt. At 196.2 million cwt, the 2020/21 long-grain total supply forecast is up 7 percent from a year earlier, with a much larger crop and slightly increased imports more than offsetting a substantial decline in carryin.

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Combined medium- and short-grain total supplies are forecast at 81.1 million cwt, also up 7 percent from 2019/20, mostly due to a larger carryin, with expected increases in production and imports much smaller.

Total U.S. rice carryin in 2020/21 is forecast at 30.5 million cwt, down 32 percent from a year earlier but fractionally larger than the 2018/19 carryin. Movements in carryin vary sharply by class. For long-grain, carryin is projected at 14.7 million cwt, down 55 percent from a year earlier. In contrast, the medium- and short-grain carryin is projected to increase 35 percent to 13.7 million cwt, the highest since 2016/17.

U.S. all-rice imports in 2020/21 are projected at a record 32.6 million cwt, up 2 percent from 2019/20. Imports are projected record high for both classes of rice in 2020/21. For long-grain, imports are projected at 26.0 million cwt, up 2 percent from this year.

The increase is based on expected continuing growth in imports of specific aromatic varieties from Asia, primarily jasmine from Thailand and basmati from India and Pakistan, with Thailand the largest supplier by a wide margin. Vietnam supplies a much smaller amount of jasmine rice as well. Brazil has supplied small amounts of broken kernel rice—included in the long-grain import category—in recent years.

Combined medium- and short-grain imports in 2020/21 are projected at 6.6 million cwt, up 0.1 million cwt from this year. China supplies about a third of U.S. medium- and short-grain imports, with shipments to Puerto Rico accounting for nearly all of China’s rice exports to the United States. China returned as a major supplier to Puerto Rico in May 2018, selling older and substantially-discounted rice from Government stocks.

India and Thailand supply most of the remaining medium- and short-grain imports, shipping specialty rices classified by the U.S. Census Bureau as medium- and short-grain rice. Italy regularly ships around 10,000 tons of its Arborio rice to the United States.

Both Exports and Domestic Use Projected Larger in 2020/21

Total use of U.S. rice in 2020/21 is projected at 237.5 million cwt, up 3 percent from a year earlier, with both the export and the domestic and residual use forecast projected to be higher in 2020/21. Long-grain total use is projected to increase 4 percent to 175.0 million cwt, while combined medium- and short-grain total use projected to increase less than 1 percent to 62.5 million cwt.

Total domestic and residual use in 2020/21 is projected at 137.5 million cwt, up more than 3 percent from a year earlier, the second highest on record. The increase is primarily based on increased supplies of rice and expectations of greater post-harvest losses associated with a larger crop. By class, long-grain domestic and residual use is projected at 103.0 million cwt, up 4 percent from a year earlier. Combined medium- and short-grain domestic and residual use is projected at 34.5 million cwt, up 1.5 percent from 2019/20.

Total U.S. rice exports in 2020/21 are projected at 100.0 million cwt, up 2.0 million cwt from the year-earlier revised estimate and the highest since 2016/17. Long-grain accounts for all of the expected increase in U.S. exports in 2020/21. At 72.0 million cwt, U.S. long-grain exports are forecast to be up 3 percent from a year earlier, also the highest since 2016/17. The increase in long-grain exports is based on larger expected supplies and lower projected U.S. long-grain prices.

By market, the U.S. is likely to increase long-grain sales to Latin American buyers, partly due to weaker total exports projected from South America in 2020 and 2021. Most of these additional U.S. long-grain exports are expected to be shipped as rough rice. Similar to recent years, the United States is expected to ship little rice to Sub-Saharan Africa beyond food aid shipments—which account for less than 3 percent of total U.S. rice exports—and is likely to continue to sell almost no long-grain rice to Asia. U.S. prices are too high for these two price-sensitive markets.

U.S. rice medium- and short-grain exports in 2020/21 are projected at 28.0 million cwt, unchanged from this year. As in 2019/20, the U.S. is expected to export little rice beyond its current six core markets.

First, the three major buyers in Northeast—Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, whose purchases are all made as part of WTO agreements—are expected to again account for around two-thirds of U.S. medium- and short-grain exports (on a rough-basis). Jordan typically imports around 3 million cwt, all milled rice. Mexico typically purchases a small amount of U.S. medium-grain rough rice.

Canada is a regular buyer of relatively small quantities U.S. medium-grain milled rice. Turkey returned as small buyer of U.S. rice in 2019/20, purchasing less than a million cwt of California rough rice.

By type, U.S. rough rice exports are projected at 37.0 million cwt, up 1.0 million from the revised 2019/20 level. Most of the rough rice is expected to be sold to Latin American buyers, primarily Mexico, Central America, and northern South America.

Milled rice exports in 2020/21 are projected at 63.0 million cwt, also up 1.0 million cwt from 2019/20. Haiti—the largest market for U.S. long-grain milled rice—is expected to account for most of the increase in milled rice exports. Japan, Korea, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Canada are also major buyers of U.S. milled rice.

The above supply and use projections yield a 2020/21 ending stocks forecast of 41.8 million cwt, 37 percent larger than the year-earlier abnormally low level. The 2020/21 stocks-to-use ratio of 17.6 percent is well above a revised abnormally low 13.2 percent for 2019/20.

By class, long-grain ending stocks in 2020/21 are projected at 22.2 million cwt, up 44 percent from this year’s unusually low level. The long-grain stocks-to-use ratio is forecast at 12.1 percent, well above the abnormally low 8.7 percent a year earlier. In contrast, medium- and short-grain ending stocks are projected to increase 36 percent in 2020/21 to 18.6 million cwt, the highest since 2015/16. The medium- and short-grain stocks-to-use ratio is projected at 29.7 percent, up from 22.2 percent a year earlier, also the highest since 2015/16.

U.S. 2019/20 Long-Grain Rice Export Forecast Lowered

The only revision this month to the 2019/20 U.S. rice balance sheet was a 1.0-million cwt reduction in the long-grain export forecast to 70.0 million cwt, still more than 6 percent larger than a year earlier. The reduction was based on the shipment pace reported by the U.S. Census Bureau through March, exports and outstanding sales through April 30 reported in the weekly U.S. Export Sales, and expectations regarding shipments and sales the remainder of the market year.

An additional factor supporting a reduced U.S. long-grain export forecast for 2019/20 has been a sharp increase in the price difference over South American exporters for the past several months, as U.S. prices have risen and prices for most grades of South American rice have declined, especially after the harvest there started in late March. The lower export forecast raised the 2019/20 ending stocks forecast 1.0 million cwt to 14.7 million cwt, still 55 percent below a year earlier.

Few changes are projected in season-average farm prices (SAFP) for rice in 2020/21. The long-grain SAFP is projected at $11.80 per cwt in 2020/21, down 20 cents from the revised 2019/20 SAFP of $12.00. The small decline in SAFP projected for 2020/21 is based on larger U.S. supplies and lower global trading prices, with global prices expected to decline when export bans and restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 virus are lifted and logistical hindrances cease.

The 2020/21 southern medium- and short-grain SAFP is projected at $11.80 per cwt, unchanged from the revised 2019/20 SAFP. Little if any increase in exports of southern medium- and short-grain rice is projected for 2020/21, continuing the quite-low level of 2019/20 exports, with North Africa not buying U.S. rice.

The California 2020/21 medium- and short grain SAFP is projected at $18.00 per cwt, also unchanged from the 2019/20 revised SAFP. Production and export of California medium- and short-grain rice is projected similar to the 2019/20 levels, with plantings indicated up slightly. In the global medium- and short-grain market, Australia is expected to increase exports next spring due to a projected crop recovery, likely pressuring prices lower toward the end of the 2020/21 market year.

The U.S. medium- and short-grain 2020/21 SAFP is projected at $16.00 per cwt, unchanged from the revised 2019/20 SAFP. The 2020/21 all rice SAFP is projected at $12.90 per cwt, down 10 cents from the revised 2019/20 all rice SAFP.

The 2019/20 SAFP for each class of rice was lowered this month, primarily based on NASS-reported cash prices through March and expectations regarding prices the remainder of the 2019/20 market year. The long-grain 2019/20 SAFP was lowered 20 cents to $12.00 per cwt, the southern medium- and short-grain SAFP was reduced 10 cents to $11.80 per cwt, and the California 2019/20 SAFP was decreased 20 cents to $18.00 per cwt.

These revisions lowered the U.S. medium- and short-grain SAFP 10 cents to $16.00 per cwt and reduced the all-rice SAFP 20 cents to $13.00 per cwt.

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