The higher forecast, released in the April U.S. World Agricultural Supply and Demand Report, is due to reduced rice production in several countries, including members of the European Union, India, Mexico, Panama and several other Central American countries.

In the report, Agriculture Department economists raised their season-average price forecast from last month's $3.90-$4.10 to $4 to $4.20 per hundredweight. That is still 5 cents below the 2001/2002 season-average price and a long ways from 2000/2001's $5.61 per hundredweight.

USDA also lowered its estimate of the milling yield for the 2002 U.S. rice crop to 68 percent, down 1 percentage point from last month, "based largely on industry millings data for about 60 percent of the marketing year."

The Agriculture Department’s Interagency Commodity Estimates Committees also raised their estimate of the 2002 cotton crop by 61,000 bales to 17.21 million bales, based on an increase in the March 21 USDA Cotton Ginnings Report.

In its breakdown of rice exports, USDA is forecasting rough rice exports at a record 40 million hundredweight, up 3 percent or 1 million cwt. from its March forecast and 26 percent or 8.3 million cwt. from 2001/2002.

"Exports of milled and brown rice are projected at 69 million cwt. (rough-equivalent basis), 2 percent or 1 million cwt. from March and 11 percent or 6.6 million cwt. from last year," USDA’s World Agricultural Outlook Board (WAOB) said in a summary distributed with today’s Supply and Demand Report.

Long-grain record

"Exports of long-grain rice are projected at a record 86 million cwt., 2 percent or 2 million cwt. above last month, 17 percent or 12.5 million cwt. above 2001/2002 and the highest since 1994/95."

The WAOB said it is estimating exports of medium- and short-grain rice at a record 23 million cwt., unchanged from last month but 12 percent or 12.2 million cwt. above 2001.02.

USDA also lowered its domestic and residual use forecast by about 100,000 cwt., due to projected lower seed use in the 2003 crop. The Department is forecasting that U.S. farmers will plant 3.04 million acres in 2003, down 6 percent from last year’s 3.24 million acres.

For other crops, USDA is projecting:

Wheat stocks to be down 20 million bushels from last month’s forecast due to higher domestic use;

Corn stocks up 5 million bushels from last month because of a reduced export forecast due to increased foreign competition;

Soybean stocks down 15 million bushels from last month because higher exports more than offset reduced domestic crush.

e-mail:flaws@primediabusiness.com