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 Sunday, September 22 2019 5:58am Hongkong Time

Global rice yield, exports and imports

Regional news and various data related to rice production and yield, exports, imports among Asian countries. It seems that the world does not have a problem with rice shortage or under-production, but rather soaring rice (and various food) prices that poor people simply cannot afford.


Raymond Cheng


  • Concern about rice production practices - more than half of the world's population (approx. 3 billion) relies on rice as the major daily source of calories and protein; productivity of rice is now increasing at a slower rate than during the height of the Green Revolution (1966-1990) - UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (2002/07/17)

    Year Rice production in million tonnes Consumption
    (paddy) x 67% = (milled)
    1996 568.5 MT 381.1 MT  
    1997-1999     386 MT
    2001 592.8 MT 397.2 MT  
    2012 721.0 MT (est.) 483.5 MT (est.)  
    2015     472 MT (est.)
    2030     533 MT (est.)

    Table 1. Rice production and consumption, UN FAO. See also "Global climate changes and rice food security" (PDF) by N.V. Nguyen

  • Why global rice production is plunging - world rice area fluctuated between 145 and 155 million hectares over the past two decades; rice prices nearly doubled from 2001 to 2007 due to deceleration in yield growth; export prices almost tripled between 2007 and 2008; attributing to adverse weather, high oil prices, and pro-ethanol policies combined with speculative trading and government trade interventions to control domestic prices - Commodity Online (2009/01/02)
  • Rice yields 'to fall' under global warming - growth in yields has fallen by 10-20% in some locations, as night-time temperatures have risen over the last 25 years - BBC (2010/08/09)
  • Global rice production set to hit record in 2011-2012 – FAO - harvest of rice around the world in 2011-2012 should hit a new record of 721 million tons and lead to lower prices - Inquirier Business (2012/02/02)
  • Breakeven not yet reached amid adverse weather: "The outlook for global rice production in 2012 has deteriorated significantly over the past four months" - global rice production estimate scaled down to 483.5 MT due to expected fall in output mainly in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh on account of erratic monsoon rains - Balkans (2012/10/10)

While the yield has been relatively stable, the price of rice soared drastically as a matter of adverse weather, high oil prices, and pro-ethanol policies combined with speculative trading etc. (see news report above)

Rice yield trends 1996-2008: China and other Asian countries
Illustration: Rice yield trends from 1996 to 2008: China and other Asian countries. Retrieved from the article, "Rice fortification in developing countries: A critical review of the technical and economic feasibility" dated April 1, 2008, Institute of Food Technologists. Source: USDA, FAS production, supply and distribution online data and Arkansas global rice model

World food prices 2000-2008
Illustration: World food prices from 2000 to 2008. Retrieved from the article, "A global effort to keep food prices from soaring higher" by Steven Mufson, Washington Post, dated January 15, 2011.

Yet, food prices have become more volatile in history than ever since the 1990s, particularly after the financial tsunami in 2008.

World food price index 1990-2012
Illustration: World food price index from 1990 to 2012. Retrieved from the article, United Nations FAO Food Price Index published October 4, 2012.



  • Proposed rice alliance with Vietnam raises some hackles (in Thailand) - Thailand should be wary of rice production cooperation as Vietnam develops quickly via low-quality rice; prediction says Vietnam will become the top producer of rice within the next 10 years, while neighbouring countries like Cambodia and Myanmar will offer better grades - Bangkok Post (2012/09/03)
  • Thailand to renew rice intervention scheme in October - to spend 400 billion baht aiming to buy up to 25 million tonnes of paddy to shore up prices; continuing to pay farmers at 15,000 baht per tonne for white rice paddy, a policy the government had vowed to continue - Reuters (2012/09/03)
  • Thailand's unfeasible rice trick - this populist "rice pledging" policy looks very likely to become unpopular as the Thai government sits on about 11m tonnes of overpriced rice and has no storage space for any more - Financial Times (2012/09/05)
  • Thailand's growing rice predicament - dimensions of Thailand's rice dilemma started to come clear earlier this week when the government put 763,856 metric ton of rice on the market at an average of US$547 per ton, but sold less than a third of what it put up for auction: just 232,000 tons - Irrawaddy (2012/09/06)
  • Thailand eyes more rice exports - Thailand, the world's biggest producer and trader of rice, has asked the Philippines to increase the volume of rice imports of the private sector from 350,000 metric tons to 500,000 MT in exchange for Manila's bid to continue its protectionist policy on the commodity; China, Vietnam, India, El Salvador and Pakistan have asked for a higher volume, though not as big - Manila Standard Today (2012/09/13)
  • Thailand signs deals to sell 7.3 million tonnes of rice - sold rice from its stocks to foreign governments (as MoUs) and shipments would run from now until late next year; yet MoUs do not necessarily imply any commitment to buy; sceptics questioned - Business Recorder (2012/09/16)
  • Thailand working on rice-trading zone - as the world's largest rice exporter, Thailand will work with ASEAN partners in setting up their own duty-free rice-trading zones; Thailand is projected to export 6 million tonnes of rice this year, Vietnam would ship 7 million and Cambodia about 800,000 tonnes; Myanmar will also gradually increase to 600,000 tonnes this year - The Nation (2012/09/17)
  • Thailand's rice buying demand thin; prices to ease on high stocks - prices were expected to fall as there's plenty of rice being stocked in Thailand and India and the two were also expected to have another year of bumper crops, traders say - Business Recorder (2012/09/30)
  • Noodling with rice burns Thailand - no one's sure how much longer can PM Yingluck Shinawatra buys rice; economist says the plan backfired as no drought elsewhere - Wall Street Journal (2012/10/03)
  • Thailand readies airport warehouse to store record stocks of rice - a record 12 million tonnes of milled rice in stockpiles - Reuters (2012/10/12)
  • Thailand will dump rice: US group - WTO urged to investigate the nation's compliance - Asia One (2012/10/19) - yet Brazil managed to escape WTO oversight with its complex ploicies - differences paid to guarantee minimum price to producers and cooperatives and the U.S. locked out of the E.U. since 2006 after long grain rice crop found to have been genetically engineered
  • Thailand's economy hit by falling rice exports - exports of rice have dropped 44% since January 2012, a blow for the economy - BBC (2012/10/24)
  • Thai rice mountain casts shadow over world market - the longer the government holds on to the stocks, the bigger the drain on the public finances - Sun Daily, Malaysia (2012/10/24)
  • Thai rice exports expected to fall short of target - the kingdom could still end the year as the world's top rice exporter in terms of value - Business Recorder (2012/11/04)
  • Thailand aims to remain top rice exporter, traders doubtful - with Thai intervention pushing prices to uncompetitive levels, exporters says target would mean policy change - Reuters (2012/11/06)
  • Meanwhile, the decline is also seen in fruits and vegetables: "Poor safety standards hit food exports to Europe" - as suppliers have failed to upgrade to the required E.U. food safety standards, they choose to export to the Middle East instead where standards are less strict; problem boils down to the lack of traceability mechanisms and hence quality control - Bangkok Post (2012/11/07)
  • U.S. challenges Thailand (at WTO) to explain rice subsidies - as Thailand sought to remain as top exporter, the USA Rice Federation is worried that their stocks will be released onto the world market at a loss - Reuters (2012/11/09)
  • Thailand, India dumping 15-year-old rice in Africa - Nigeria, the largest importer of rice in the world (aggressive import substitution programme for rice which puts Nigerian farmers out of business), warns that while planning to spend some $150 million annually importing rice by 2050, is being dumped with rice coming out of some countries' strategic grain reserves - Thailand Business News (2012/11/21) - Nigeria currently imports an annual 3 million metric tonnes, and is expected to grow to 36 million metric tonnes by 2050
  • Thailand's rice pact with China (i.e. sell rice to China) a political move, say analysts - China to import 2.6 million tonnes of rice worth US$203 million, considered more symbolic rather than a real source of relief to the huge piles of rice (14 million tonnes) the Thai government has accumulated - Channel News Asia (2012/11/22)



  • What might the US buy from Myanmar? - US about to lift restrictions on exports; Myanmar, the former top powerhouse of rice, also rich in energy resources (both oil and gas), needs huge investment and development - Financial Times (2012/09/10)
  • Myanmar seeks to restore status among top rice exporters - the could-be Asia's next economic frontier expect overseas sales to climb to as much as 3 million metric tons by 2017 from 1.5 million tons in the year ending March 2013 as yields and infrastructure improve - BusinessWeek (2012/10/28)




  • China ups rice buying – from Vietnam - the year 2012 marks a radical departure from China's normal pattern of purchases: 2.3-2.4 million tonnes this year, 600,000 tonnes in 2011 - Bangkok Post (2012/12/12) - and the problem is: nobody knows the actual volume of rice held in stocks by China

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