Global rice production is at a record this month, primarily due to higher production in India. Trade, too, is now at a record, with higher imports forecast for Sri Lanka in the midst of a smaller-than-expected crop. India’s exports are raised to record levels. Global stocks are up this month on higher production in India.


Over the past month, U.S. export quotes for bagged milled rice rose relative to Western Hemisphere and Asian origins. U.S. quotes rose $5/ton to $590, reflecting tightening supplies. Meanwhile, South American quotes dropped as new crop begins to be harvested in some regions with Uruguay now nearly $70/ton less than the United States. Asian quotes declined as Indonesia’s demand subsided, but Vietnamese quotes fell the most with new crop becoming available. Quotes from Thailand, India, and Vietnam are currently trading within a narrow range of $410-$420/ton. Pakistan rice is currently the lowest quote at $385/ton.

Paraguay Emerges as Rice Exporter, Shifting Trade Flows in South America and Beyond

Over the past decade, Paraguay’s rice production has quadrupled, driving it to find export opportunities. Accordingly, its rice exports have risen six-fold over the same period. Paraguay’s recent dominance of the Brazil rice import market has caused Uruguay and Argentina to find new markets in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.

Among the major producers in South America, Brazil is the only country that not only exports but also imports rice. This is fortunate for neighboring landlocked Paraguay, which has the logistical advantage of supplying this nearby market. The dependence on this one market is so extreme that last year, Paraguay shipped nearly 80 percent of its exports to Brazil.

Paraguay’s dominance of the Brazilian market has had ripple effects on a global scale. Only 10 years ago, Uruguay and Argentina supplied more than 80 percent of Brazil’s rice imports. Last year as Paraguay’s share expanded, these two suppliers’ share declined to roughly 40 percent. Paraguay’s increased dominance in the Brazilian market has intensified competition, impelling Uruguay and Argentina to find new markets.

These two countries have been able to capitalize on their port capacities to ship further distances and expand markets abroad. For example, they have been able to ship to West Africa and Iraq, and their expansion into Latin American markets has been remarkable. Peru is now the top export market for Uruguayan rice. Both countries have shipped to Cuba and have seen considerable growth in their exports to traditional U.S. markets such as Mexico and Costa Rica in the last decade.

Global rice trade is now forecast at a record 47.9 million tons for 2018, but the composition of suppliers is expected to change from last year. For the seventh consecutive year, India is forecast to be the top exporter, reaching a record 13.0 million tons. With record production and ample stocks, there is no threat of the government curtailing non-basmati exports as it did from 2007 to 2011. Instead, the forecast is for robust basmati and non-basmati exports, primarily to the Asian, African, and Middle Eastern regions.

In contrast, Thai exports are forecast at 10.2 million tons for 2018, down over 12 percent from last year. In 2017, exports were aided by the rapid pace of sales from old-crop rice auctions of government stocks. In the current year, the government is nearing depletion of these stocks, while the private sector is expected to return to its role of maintaining adequate levels of pipeline reserves. Vietnam’s exports are seen slightly higher at 6.7 million tons, reflecting continued strong sales to China and expanded opportunities for supplying affordably priced rice to the region. Other exporters are also expected to edge up, with China in particular accelerating sales to African countries.