Total U.S. rice supplies for market year (August-July) 2003/04 are projected at 241 million hundredweight (rough basis), down 9 percent from a year earlier and the smallest since 2000/01.

The USDA's Economic Research Service in its rice yearbook summary, says a 31 percent drop in beginning stocks and a 6 percent decline in production more than offset record imports. At 198.2 million hundredweight, the U.S. rice crop is down 12.7 million hundredweight from the year-earlier near-record.

U.S. rice plantings for 2003/04 are estimated at 3 million acres, down 7 percent from a year earlier and the smallest since 1996/97. Low price expectations for long grain at planting, plus adverse weather in California are responsible for most of the decline in rice acreage this year. The average yield is projected at a record 6,656 pounds per acre, up 78 pounds from a year earlier. Increased plantings of new, higher yielding southern long grain varieties is the main factor behind this year's fourth consecutive record yield.

Long grain accounts for the bulk of the decline in total rice production in 2003/04. U.S. long grain production is projected at 146 million hundredweight, down 7 percent from a year earlier. Combined medium/short grain production is projected at 52.2 million hundredweight, a drop of 3 percent from a year earlier.

Rice acreage is smaller this year in all reporting U.S. rice growing States. Louisiana accounts for the largest share of this year's 229,000-acre decline in total rice harvested area. Field yields are projected higher this year for all reporting states except California and Texas, with record yields projected for Arkansas, Louisiana, and Missouri. Rice production is projected to decline this year in all reported states, with California, Louisiana, and Texas accounting for the bulk of the decline.

The 2003/04 U.S. season-average farm price (SAFP) is projected at $7 to $7.50 per hundredweight, up from $4.22 a year earlier. This is the highest SAFP since 1998/99 and the first increase since 1996/97. A 9 percent drop in U.S. supplies, plus continued strong demand in both the U.S. and global rice markets are the main factors driving U.S. prices higher.

U.S. Rice Exports Are Projected To decline 24 Percent to 95 Million hundredweight. U.S. rice exports in 2003/04 are projected to drop 24 percent to 95 million hundredweight (rough basis). Higher U.S. prices, a much larger price difference over major Asian competitors' prices, and smaller supplies at home are behind the bearish export forecast.

Despite the expected decline, exports would still be the third highest on record. Milled rice exports are projected to account for almost all of the decline in total U.S. rice exports this year.