Experts predict rice industry to improve in 2017

Published: May. 31, 2017 at 8:45 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 2, 2017 at 10:18 AM CDT
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FENTON, LA (KPLC) - 2016 was a rough year for rice producers throughout the country and the state, and especially here in Southwest Louisiana, with major flooding crippling farms.

"We've had depressed prices. Add to that the flood we had in 2016. So the last couple of years have been a challenge and a struggle for our rice producers," said Kurt Guidry, an economist with the LSU AgCenter.

However, experts had a hopeful tone during this year's annual rice field day, an event for local rice farmers to gather and learn about the trends and research in the industry.

"I think the crop is off to an average or an above-average start. Certainly the rains we've gotten over the last couple of weeks have been a little bit of a challenge for many of our producers, and we do have some acres in SWLA that were lost due to flooding," said Guidry.

Guidry said despite the slight setback, market prices may increase after remaining stagnant for the past few years.

"That's predominantly a function of lower acreages in Louisiana and across the U.S., and because of some struggles with weather we've been seeing in other rice producing states," said Guidry.

This price increase, according to Guidry, ultimately depends on an increase in exports of long-grain milled rice.

"We are hopeful we will see that improvement, but until that happens it's just hopefulness right now, and in reality we haven't seen that happen yet," said Guidry.

Exports of long-grain rough rice have gone up 3 percent from last year, exporting mainly to Mexico and many South American countries, but milled rice is down 13 percent this year because we predominantly export to Iraq and Iran, both of which have not been purchasing much over the past several years.

All of these negative factors over the years have been forcing rice producers to depend on government program funding to survive, and this year is no different; however, Guidry said they will most likely require a lot less.

"We're a long ways away from the crop being harvested, so a lot of things can happen between now and then," said Guidry.

According to the LSU AgCenter, there are 432,168 planted acres of rice in the state with a total value of $418,236,043.

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