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Global rice production in 2009 impaired by return of El Niño conditions

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World rice prices dropped during 2010

Bangkok - FAO's estimate of global rice paddy production in 2009 now stands at 680 million tones, 1 percent below the 2008 outstanding harvest, with much of the reduction being on account of Asia, where crops were impaired by erratic monsoon rains and the resurgence of El Niño conditions. Sluggish world import demand negatively affected all the rice market segments and resulted in sharp declines of world rice prices since January 2010.

2009 rice production estimates

The current forecast level of 680 million tonnes (454 million tonnes, milled basis) confirms expectations of global paddy production in 2009 emerging as the second highest achieved, with world output falling only 1 percent below the 2008 outstanding harvest. The contraction mirrored a 3.1 million hectare retrenchment in area sown to paddy to 156 million hectares, as average yields rose by 1 percent to 4.4 tonnes.

The reduction in plantings was concentrated in Asia, which suffered from an erratic pattern of the monsoon rains and the resurgence of El Niño conditions. Nonetheless, production also fell in Africa, while output gains were registered in Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, North America and Oceania.

2010 production forecast

Although highly tentative at this time of the year, forecast of world paddy production in 2010 points to a 4 percent increase to a record 710 million tonnes. The annual increase is expected to concentrate in Asian countries, forecast to gather 643 million tonnes overall, 29 million tonnes more than in 2009.

Rice trade

The recovery in rice production is anticipated to be import-driven, with Asian countries largely behind the increase in world rice imports in 2010. Bangladesh, Iraq, Nepal, Sri Lanka and especially the Philippines are expected to purchase more over the year to offset drought and flood-induced production shortfalls.

Imports by European and Latin American countries are also set to increase, while they may fractionally decline in Africa.

The expansion in world rice trade in 2010 is forecast to be met by larger exports from China mainland, Myanmar, Thailand, the United States and specially Pakistan. On the other hand, a reduction of domestic supplies and, in the case of India, the maintenance of export restrictions, is expected to depress shipments from this country, but also from Brazil and Uruguay.

Global rice consumption in 2010 is forecast to increase by 2.1 percent to 454 million tonnes, milled basis. Of these, 388 million tonnes are expected to be consumed as food, 6 million tonnes more than in 2009.

Rice prices

The rebounding of international rice prices observed at the end of 2009 came to an end by January 2010. This was reflected in the FAO All Rice Price Index, which passed from 251 points in January 2010 to 206 points in April 2010. The weakening has been widespread, with sluggish world import demand negatively affecting all the rice market segments.