The 2012 rice harvest could be the best in history while global demand is softening, except in Africa.
The cultivated rice field areas have further increased this year in Asia. Consequently, world production will reach close to 490 million tonnes of white rice (according to the FAO), ten million tons more than last year, already an all-time record.
For the last 3 years, harvests kept getting bigger, and they will increase again in China, other major exporting countries like Thailand and Vietnam, but also among smaller suppliers: Pakistan, Cambodia, Burma, Australia. Only the american continent had a disappointing harvest: the United States and Brazil favoured more profitable soybeans.
In total, much more rice will be available on the international market, especially since India has huge available stocks and a 7 million tonnes export capacity. Vietnam, with a record harvest, should have an export capacity even more important, so that Vietnam and India this year could become the champions of the world market, in front of Thailand. The Thai government decided to withhold part of the country’s production in an attempt to raise prices and its foreign sales have halved to date compared to last year.
This Thai policy is for now preventing the rice market to collapse: of course the price is still far away from the $1.000 of 2008, but a ton of Thai rice quality is still trading at $600.
Global demand is down this year, for the first time in four years, because major rice importing countries in Asia, like the Philippines and Indonesia, have managed a greater self-sufficiency. Only Africa, facing a severe food crisis, should greatly increase its purchases of rice which could reach 10 million tonnes this year, one third of world imports.