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Rice crop, market likely up for Texas producers

published: October 19th 2020
by: Adam Russell
source: Texas AgriLife Today

Early indications show Texas rice farmers produced a bumper crop amid a market that could experience a price increase due to crop losses in other rice-producing states, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Research expert.

Ted Wilson, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center director, Beaumont, said high yields and lower-than-expected supplies elsewhere could be good news for Texas rice growers.

“I’m hearing about extremely high yields in the main crop, but I haven’t seen enough data on quality or yields for an assessment,” he said. “From the way growers are talking, it looks like we’ll be closer to 2018 production numbers than 2019.”

Rice crop numbers

Producers yielded 1,300 pounds more per acre in 2018 compared to 2019, Wilson said.

Rice acres were also up this year – 184,400 acres – compared to 2019 – 154,100 acres, he said.

Wilson said rice acres in Texas typically fluctuate based on global market prices.

“The U.S. is a miniscule producer but a major exporter of rice,” he said. “The U.S. typically ranks third to fifth in global rice exports, so the Texas acreage goes up and down based on the supply and demand.”

Wilson suspects U.S. supplies, including growers in Arkansas and northern Louisiana, were negatively impacted by a series of hurricane and tropical storm systems this growing season. The losses could greatly impact the U.S. export market and rice prices.

Arkansas produces half of the nation’s rice, Wilson said. Losses in Louisiana also likely reduced the U.S. production of long-grain rice, which is the primary rice crop for Texas growers.

“In Texas that’s mostly good news for growers,” he said.  “But it’s not good for growers in those other states. They just got too much rain at the wrong time. Losses in Arkansas and northern Louisiana may affect global supplies.”

Wilson said a 5%-10% reduction in overall U.S. production due to those crop losses will likely mean rice acres in Texas remain static next year rather than fall.

Crop conditions and ratoon crop

Wilson said dry conditions early in the growing season weren’t ideal for other Texas crops but they were good for rice growers. Producers were able to follow planting with a flush of shallow water that is drained and followed by a subsequent flush as plants grow.

“Drought can mean more flushes are necessary, and that can push water costs up, but they had timely rains,” he said. “Too much rain can cause problems too, but there was little impact to the Texas crop from the storms.”

Wilson said disease and pest pressure were low in 2020 as well. The ratoon crop could face heavier infestations because a Caribbean plant hopper reemerged several years ago and caused some black mold development in late-season fields last year. 

It is too early to estimate how well the ratoon crop in Texas will perform, Wilson said. Ratoon crops west of Houston typically perform better during the season because the region has lighter soils, receives less rain and ultimately enjoys an extended growing window.

Around 50% to 75% of the acres planted for the main crop have been ratooned in recent years, he said. But grower surveys are not far enough along to provide a glimpse of what the ratoon crop expectations are this year. There also was some concern about late-season tropical storms or hurricanes negatively impacting the ratoon crop.

Wilson also said Texas rice production was spared major impacts from COVID-19.

“When it comes to weather, the timing of the Texas crop was pretty close to perfect to avoid storm impacts,” he said. “And as far as COVID, there may have been some shipping disruptions at Texas ports, but I think a lot of that was more from storm damage, so it really hasn’t been affected so far.”


 

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