When rice farmers and millers talk about the U.S. rice crop, it does not take long for the conversation to cross the border. With over 50 percent of U.S. production consumed in the foreign marketplace, we find ourselves at the mercy of a wide array of issues, including war, government elections, government policies, good or bad weather, embargos, export competition, consumer rejections, financial woes and logistical nightmares, just to name a few.
Needless to say, the U.S. rice industry has become an expert on global affairs and their effects on business. Nowhere was this more obvious than at the Rice Americas 2009 conference held in Miami, Fla., May 12-14. Those in attendance were not disappointed.
One primary advantage of attending any conference is the opportunity to network with others, and this is one of the big attractions of the Rice Americas conference each year.
Depending on which sessions you attended, at the same time rice buyers, sellers and traders were doing business in the lobby and reception area outside of the auditorium. This is an important component of the conference, establishing an atmosphere where business can be conducted. But equally important was the great lineup of speakers and topics from which everyone benefitted, depending on their specific area of interest.
‘Never had a market like this’
Former U.S. Secretary of Ag-riculture Ed Shafer kicked off the meeting with the keynote address that targeted world issues common to everyone in attendance. Jeremy Zwinger, president of The Rice Trader, set the tone for the entire two-day program as he went through a series of slides and charts regarding commodity and currency markets and the signals and directions they are presenting. Jeremy’s summary of rice and the food grain markets and where they are headed in the future became a theme throughout the conference as participants tried to understand the current market conditions that are uncharted waters for everyone. A common remark was, “We have never had a market like this one.”
Back by popular demand, Dr. Bill Wilson (North Dakota State University) discussed volatility and risk in the marketplace and how to measure and manage, while demonstrating simulation models for analysis use.
Dr. Harry Vroomen (vice president of Economic Services with The Fertilizer Institute) discussed the supply/demand factors in the global fertilizer market and the fluctuations worldwide that is important to everyone in the food supply chain. Pedro Alvarez Borrego, chairman and CEO for Cuba’s Alimport, joined the conference via live Internet connection from Hanoi, Vietnam, to give an update and answer questions from the audience. Mr. Alvarez, a long-time friend of the U.S. rice industry, did not take long to express his frustrations with the regulations surrounding the U.S. trade embargo and the need for improvement from both the White House and the U.S. Congress.
Future rice production addressed
Key updates from Mexico, Central America, Brazil and Uruguay gave good insight to policies and markets in the region as speakers addressed present and future production outlooks, price concerns and consumption trends that are expected to shape the future.
A popular panel on rice production in the future was given by Duncan Macintosh (International Rice Research Institute), Dr. Gonzalo Zorrilla (Fund for Irrigated Rice in Latin America) and Dr. Ed Runge (Beachell-Borlaug Scholars Program). Fred Clark (Cornerstone Government Affairs), Dr. William Nganje (Arizona State University) and Rick Keene (former California legislature) gave overviews of new administration policies and their impact on trade, financial difficulties in agribusiness and water availability.
And, as expected, most foreign visitors were interested in hearing the thoughts of Bob Papanos (Seacor), Thomas Wynn (USRPA economist), Jay Kapila (The Rice Company), and Ramiro Velasquez on the outlook for the U.S. crop and the key issues faced by the U.S. trade.
As expressed by participants from both the United States and friends from throughout Latin America, “This is one event I will attend every year.”
For more about USRPA, visit www.usriceproducers.com.