U.S. rice exports are projected to decline slightly after 2006, USDA analysts say, as rising domestic demand offsets production growth that comes as a result of record yields.

Rice trade worldwide is predicted to average a 2.4 percent annual growth rate from 2004 through 2013, according to the baseline analyses by the Interagency Agricultural Projections Committee.

But despite the growth, rice trade as a share of total use will remain very small relative to other cereals, at only 6 percent to 7 percent, according to the report at the annual USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum at Arlington.

International rice trade consists mainly of long grain varieties, which also will account for the bulk of expected growth in trade over the next decade. Indonesia, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia are typically the top markets for long grain rice.

Expansion in medium grain rice trade is projected to be much slower, despite the partial opening of domestic markets to imported rice by Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan as part of World Trade Organization commitments.

Aromatic rice, primarily basmati and jasmine, make up most of the rest of global rice trade, and typically sell at a substantial price premium.

Indonesia, the world’s leading rice importer, will increase its share of global purchases from 12 percent to 15 percent during the decade. Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East

Will also be major destinations for internationally traded rice, with strong demand driven by rapidly-expanding populations and rising incomes.

European Union rice imports are expected to rise as the 50 percent cut in the intervention price imposed by the Common Agricultural Policy reform causes yields and planted area to decline.

Thailand and Vietnam, the world’s largest rice exporting countries, will account for nearly half of all exports during the period. Both produce and export primarily long grain rice.

India, which emerged as an important rice exporter in the mid-1990s, ships mostly low quality long grain rice, often purchased from burdensome government stocks. High internal price supports in India will continue to encourage overproduction, stocks accumulation, and a steady supply of exports during the period to 2013.

Rice exports by China, usually the world’s fifth leading exporter, are expected to decline modestly as production shifts to higher quality, but lower-yielding varieties in response to domestic prices and policy signals. China exports mostly high quality short grain rice to Northeast Asian markets and low quality long grain rice to Indonesia and other low income markets in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Pakistan exports both high quality basmati rice and low quality long grain, and although rice is an important generator of foreign exchange, the country has little ability to expand rice area, and production is facing increasing shortages of water. Exports are expected to be relatively stable during the period, remaining well below the 2.4 million metric ton record in 2000.

e-mail: hbrandon@primediabusiness.com