Despite climatic shifts and natural disasters plaguing some rice producing countries, the 2013 season has produced more rice than expected, adding to the ninth straight year of rice surplus or 'carry over,' the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reported recently.
And in terms of exports, Thailand is expected to capture much of the expected expansion in world demand and remain the world's No.2 exporter after India in 2014.
As farmers in many countries begin the last harvests of the 2013 season, several countries have raised their 2013 production estimates above those reported in November.
They included China, India, Pakistan and the Philippines, which had endured a number of climatic setbacks, but where damage to crops was said to have been less severe than previously thought, according to the FAO's first Rice Market Monitor (RMM) report for 2014.
Prospects also improved for Colombia, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Tanzania, while they deteriorated for Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Russia, according to the report.
"Overall, the revisions translated into a 3.5-million tonne upgrade of 2013 global paddy rice production to 744.9 million tonnes (496.6 million tonnes, milled basis), which makes for a 1.1 per cent increase from the previous season, and renewed again an historic world record harvest," said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO assistant director-general and regional representative for Asia and the Pacific.
While the damage caused by floods, storms and other erratic weather in Asia and the Pacific took a toll in 2013, the report warns that, going forward, "climatic events affecting the development of 2014 season crops, such as the potential El Nino event, are also likely to influence market sentiment."
FAO's first global production forecast for 2014 predicts a third consecutive season of subdued growth. "Global paddy production in 2014 could reach 751 million tonnes (500.7 million tonnes, milled basis), 0.8 per cent more than currently estimated for 2013," the RMM reports.
Based on the latest estimates, global rice stocks carried over into 2014 are set to rise for the ninth consecutive year, reaching 180.5 million tonnes (milled basis), 1.5 million tonnes more than foreseen in November, and 3.2 per cent above their opening level in 2013. Developing countries would be responsible for the entire increase in stockpile.
Combined, the five major rice exporters (India, Pakistan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam) remain projected to end their individual 2013/14 marketing years with 3 per cent more on reserve, or 48.4 million tonnes.