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TRT Rice Americas becomes regional rice meeting

By Dwight Roberts
President and CEO
USRPA
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You named the place and they came. Whether rice producer, rice miller, exporter, importer or trader, whether a government official or a market analyst, they came to Cartagena, Colombia, to mix and mingle at the most important rice conference in the Western Hemisphere.

Organized by The Rice Trader market publication and the International Commod-ity Institute and co-hosted by the U.S. Rice Producers Association, rice trade representatives from every corner (30 countries) of the Western Hemisphere gathered in Cartagena last month to address the issues of the marketplace.

The Rice Trader’s Jeremy Zwinger began the program by presenting the audience with a theme of the World Rice Market in Motion. What happened to rice in 2009? The center of much conversation during 2009 was the Philippines, India and the global market response around the world.

What’s in store for 2010-11?
Rice production in 09/10: El Niño and more supply shocks? Many different avenues were explored to determine the reasons that we have a market today that many are calling confused, sideways, lost and a few other unprintable descriptions! Factor in political elections in many countries around the world (18 in Africa alone), and Zwinger summed it up well with “it’s easier to predict weather that politics.”

Dr. Elwynn Taylor, an Ex-tension agronomist and climatologist from Iowa State University explained the reasons for changing weather patterns and their effects on crop cycles around the world, beginning with the effects of the volcanic eruption in Iceland that kept a few Europeans from arriving in Cartagena. He went on to say that we have the needed signals announcing the end of the year of El Niño, but it’s uncertain if we are in a La Niña or more of a normal pattern. La Niña weather indicates snow and rain on the West Coast, unusually cold weather in Alaska, unusually warm weather in the rest of the United States, drought in the Southwest and a higher-than-normal number of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean. Dr. Taylor also predicts that the Gulf Coast region of the United States will have an active hurricane season this year, which always has a direct impact on the southern U.S. rice crop.

What will Brazil’s import needs be?
Dr. Bruno Lanfranco, from the National Agriculture Research Institute in Uruguay, and Tiago Barata, a rice market analyst from Agrotendencias in Brazil, took a close look at the Mercosur’s (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay & Uruguay) current rice harvest. This is an area that produces about 14 million tons of paddy rice per year and has a major influence on prices throughout the Western Hemisphere.

With the Mercosur hampered by weather problems, particularly during the planting season that has caused a significant reduction in yields, Barata predicted that Brazil could buy 150,000MT from outside of its Mercosur neighboring countries. Some knowledgeable sources also say statistics are conservative, and the needs could be much higher. Time will tell.

Other topics that caused good and lengthy Q&A discussions concerned seed and variety developments along with GMO rice in the future of Latin America. The milling and postharvest technology panel presented the latest technology applications (Delta Technology, USA) with a special presentation on parboiling from Dr. Gilberto Womack Amato of IRGA’s Rice Excel-lence Center in Brazil. Key international market developments regarding India and particularly Africa’s import trends and concerns were of great interest to Latin American exporters and traders attending.

The TRT Rice Americas conference is quickly turning into a rice convention for the entire region as evidenced by board meetings held by FECARROZ, the Central American Rice Federation, and INDUARROZ, the Rice Milling Association of Colombia, in conjunction with the conference. Cartagena was big, but all indications are that Panama, the site of the 2011 conference, will be much bigger. Mark your calendars!

For more about USRPA, visit www.usriceproducers.com.

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