Rice Market Update: Many Farmers Undecided as Planting Season Approaches

    Rice planting. Photo: University of Arkansas

    Strong paddy prices here at home are serving as a double-edged sword to the industry. No producers are going to complain about strong pricing as it occurs, but over time when strong pricing makes US rice less attractive to core customers, we see other suppliers creep into our demand schedule. This has happened from Brazil to Mexico in recent history.

    There is significant hope that Iraq will return to the US for more milled rice tenders as well, but the supply-driven strong market is forcing them to look elsewhere for their supplies.

    The good news in this situation is that we are beginning to see prices creep up from our South American competitors in recent weeks, providing strong price support for the US long grain price, now quoted at $625 pmt FOB Lake Charles.

    According to the USDA, Mercosur ending stocks for rice are expected to decline by 12% from last year. However, guidance from Mercosur rice industry indicates that production will be down even more than that, and that quality will be a concern in some regions.

    The ongoing drought is not only causing logistical, production, and quality woes for rice in the region, but it’s also adversely impacting soybeans and corn. As a result, prices are solidifying, and spot market liquidity is declining.

    This may create more trading opportunities for US rice following harvest this fall.

    Recent meetings with the USDA and FAS this week show that predictions for the coming crop are on par with last year. There has been speculation that fertilizer costs could drive rice production down another 15% this year, but that doesn’t appear to be the case as decisions are being made. There will likely be an overall reduction, but nothing as significant as 15%.

    However, looking into the coming year with another shortened supply does help provide price support for the current market. The short supply and high cost of Round-Up has some farmers thinking twice about soybean planting intentions as most beans are Round-Up ready soybeans.

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    Farmers are doing all they can to keep costs down including waiting a few days into March to start planting in order to avoid any early cold spells that extend the growing cycle.

    Asia has been the recipient for much of the demand from Iraq, as Thailand successfully booked a tender for 120,000 metric tons. Price quotes from Asian origins are a bit mixed from last week, with Thailand registering at $417 pmt, Vietnam at $400 pmt, India at $360 pmt, and Pakistan just below that at $355.

    India shows no sign of stopping their surge to the top spot among exporters, but they are seeing a bit more competition from Pakistan this year than in years past.

    The USDA Export Sales report shows net sales of 24,000 MT this week, which is down 88% from the previous week and 80% from the prior 4-week average. Increases primarily for Haiti (7,300 MT), Mexico (7,000 MT, including decreases of 600 MT), Costa Rica (5,000 MT), Canada (1,800 MT), and Jordan (1,700 MT), were offset by reductions for Taiwan (300 MT) and Honduras (300 MT).

    Exports of 62,400 MT were down 12% from the previous week, but up 12% from the prior 4-week average. The destinations were primarily to South Korea (22,200 MT), Haiti (15,300 MT), Honduras (11,700 MT), Costa Rica (5,500 MT), and Mexico (3,300 MT).

    Full report.

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