2020 Rice Export Tonnage Dips, Value Increases

Goods & Serverices Trade Deficit graph, 2018-2020
U.S. Census Bureau crunches international trade data
Feb 11, 2021
WASHINGTON, DC -- Last Friday, the U.S. Census Bureau released the December 2020 trade data, providing the first full look at the 2020 calendar year’s export and import performance for all agricultural products, including rice.  As widely expected by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) economists, U.S. rice exports, originally on a trajectory to increase in 2020, took a 9 percent nosedive.  For the same period, metric tons of imported foreign rice saw a 23 percent increase, namely from India, Thailand, and Pakistan.

The prospect for U.S. rice exports in January and February of 2020 looked promising, both foreign and domestic demand was high while supplies were tight and strong planting projections were on the horizon.  The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global shipping efficiency and costs led to sustained high U.S. rice prices before, during, and after the harvest season which meant decreased sales abroad last fall.  U.S. exports to Iraq, Mexico, and throughout Central America saw the most significant decreases in 2020.

While export tonnage decreased from 3,625,292 MT in 2019 to 3,287,355 MT in 2020, export value actually increased from $1.85 billion in 2019 to nearly $1.88 billion in 2020, a 1 percent jump.

“While we did see decreased sales in some of our primary markets in 2020, we also saw some markets perform well, like Haiti and some of our markets in the Middle East, ” said USA Rice Vice President International Sarah Moran.  “Surprisingly, we saw increased sales in Venezuela and even a resurgence of sales to Brazil.  Brazil’s weather and economic situation necessitated a duty-free quota for rice last summer and fall, and that was enough to move them from 93rd in terms of tonnage to 8th in terms of tonnage.  Brazil hasn’t been in our top ten export markets by value or tonnage in the last decade, so that was a really welcome change.”

Thus far in 2021, USDA believes exports will remain relatively flat, absent any major market changes, and USA Rice will continue to double-down on international promotion efforts abroad as safety allows.

Go here to view the complete trade report.