The United States, now the world's third largest rice exporting nation, is expected in the next five years or so to be overtaken for that position by India.

“Exports by India are projected to steadily increase over the next decade as high internal prices stimulate production and exportable supplies,” according to the February 2005 USDA Agricultural Baseline Projections to 2014 report by the Interagency Agricultural Projections Committee.

India exports low quality long grain rice and smaller quantities of high quality basmati rice.

In the United States, rising domestic demand and a slower growth rate in yields are expected to “constrain the expansion of rice exports,” the report noted.

Global rice trade is projected to average a 2.3 percent annual growth rate from 2005 through the end of the decade.

By 2014, it is expected to reach more than 34.5 million tons, over 20 percent higher than the world record production of 2002.

International rice trade consists predominantly of long grain varieties, which also account for the bulk of expected growth in trade over the next decade, the report said.

Expansion in medium grain rice trade is expected to be “much slower,” despite the partial opening of Japan's and South Korea's domestic markets to imported rice as part of World Trade Organization commitments.

Rising food demand from rapidly-growing populations in Indonesia and Bangladesh will generate much of the expected growth in global rice imports. Their share of global imports is expected to double during the decade.

Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East will also be major destinations, as rapidly expanding populations and rising incomes spur strong demand growth.

Thailand and Vietnam, the world's largest rice exporting countries, will account for nearly half of all rice exports during the 10-year period, the report said.