USDA Report Projects Reduction in 2020/21 Rice Exports, Leveling with Prior Year

Korea promotion shows two people, both wearing masks, the man is holding papers and the woman is pushing a grocery cart filled with yellow bags of rice
In-person promotion in Korea last year with social distancing and masks
Jan 13, 2021
WASHINGTON, DC – Despite near-record demand for U.S.-grown rice in 2020, yesterday’s U.S. Department of Agriculture’s World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) Report lowered U.S. rice export projections for the 2020/21 marketing year.  The estimated international shipments reflect a nearly 5 percent reduction from the June 2020 WASDE Report at 3.14 million metric tons (MT) to 2.99 million MT.

While the projected export levels for 2020/21 are even with that of the 2019/20 marketing year, they fall far short of where they could be given the significant increase in the 2020 harvested acres following hundreds of thousands of rice acres being prevented from planting in 2019.  

On a calendar year basis, 2020 falls even further behind 2019 figures.  U.S. Census Bureau trade data shows 3.25 million MT of U.S. rice exported between January and November in 2019, compared to 2.84 million MT for the same period in 2020.

“This drop in overall exports for the calendar and marketing year can be attributed to a variety of factors, beginning with price, which was higher than normal the first nine months of the year because of the tight supply,” said Sarah Moran, USA Rice vice president, international.

Once harvest hit, prices started to level out, but the U.S. missed some key business amid the global panic for staple foods resulting from COVID-19.

“In addition to the price factor, some key long grain markets like Iraq, Haiti, and Mexico have underperformed this year,” said Moran.  “All of our primary markets were impacted differently by COVID-19, driving demand for retail but also reducing liquid capital to make purchases.  We are optimistic that we’ll see demand pick up in those markets and we’ll be able to regain some ground."

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. rice exporters have continued to ship safe, high-quality rice throughout the world with limited logistical snags.  USA Rice also has continued to conduct effective international promotions through outdoor and social media outlets, and as safety allows, in-person.  USA Rice plans to reinitiate more in-person promotional activities in 2021, including participation in trade shows, trade missions, and in-store demonstrations.