II.   Rice Production in the World and in the U.S.




World Production of Rice
U.S. Production of Rice
Farming of Rice
Storage and Milling of Rice
The U.S. Rice Milling Industry
  • Most production figures related to paddy or rough rice. (Rice that still contains the husk).

  • Most demand figures relate to milled rice. Milled rice is about 68% of paddy.

  • Most U.S. figures use cwts (hundred weights, 100 lbs). Large numbers are reported as 1000 cwts.

  • World figures use Metric Tons. 1 MT = 2204 lbs or 22.046 cwts. Large numbers are one million MT.

NOTE: Check in another section of Rice 101 for definitions of grain types, parboiled rice, broken rice, paddy rice, etc.


World Production and Trade of Rice.

Rice is the staple in the diet for much of the world. It runs a close second to wheat in its importance as a food cereal in the human diet. About 670 Million Metric Tons of rice are grown annually compared to 680 MMT for wheat, 440 MMT for oil seeds, and 1090 MMT for coarse grains (corn, sorghum, barley, oats, rye, millet and mixed grains.) Most coarse grains go into animal feed where its impact on the human diet is not as great (eight lbs. of grain are needed to produce one lb. of beef). Rice produces more food energy per acre than other cereal grains, and is second only to wheat in terms of protein per acre produced. Rice production has more than doubled in the last 40 years. Most of the increase in production has been a result of improved field yields. Acreage planted in rice has only increased about 30 percent. Rice is best grown in flooded fields and so acreage is limited by soil type and supply of water.

Of the 680 MMT produced almost 50 percent is grown and consumed in China and India. The leading producers of rice, are (in order) China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand, Burma, Philippines, Brazil, Japan and the United States. The United States produces about 6 MMT, or about one percent of the world’s supply. Most rice is consumed within a few miles of where it is produced.

Very little rice is traded and for this reason the market price for rice is very volatile. In the case of wheat and coarse grains 15% of the world’s production is traded between countries. In the case of rice only 5% is traded. The United States has historically exported about half of its production, and for many years, the U.S. was the number two exporter of rice in the world behind Thailand. Today Vietnam is number two and occasionally Pakistan takes the number three slot. Following are the top five exporters for 2008-2010: (quantities are for milled rice, about 68% of paddy rice)

Back to TOP

U.S. Production and Marketing of Rice.

Rice production in the United States started in the Carolinas and Georgia and by the early 1700s the U.S. was exporting rice. Rice was very labor intensive and somewhat dependent on slave labor. After the civil war, rice acreage started heading west around the Mississippi river and eventually mechanized farming allowed the industry to flourish in that area. By 1912, rice was being grown in California.

All rice in the United States is grown in flooded fields. Only certain types of soils are able to hold water and hold the weight of machinery. An abundant and cheap supply of water is needed. The Mississippi delta has proven to be an ideal location for rice and most rice in the U.S. is grown in that area. Arkansas is the number one producer of rice in the U.S. today. Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Missouri also produce rice. The old flood basin for the Sacramento River in Northern California has also proven to be a good location for rice, and California is now the number two producer of rice in the U.S. Following is a listing of average (last 3 to 4 years) production by type for the states involved in rice:

There are predominately three types of rice grown in the United States. Indica type long grain rice typically known as Southern Long Grain rice. Indica type medium grain rice typically known as Southern Medium Grain rice, and Japonica type medium grain rice typically known as California Medium or Calrose rice.

The most common rice in the U.S. is southern long grain rice. This indica type of rice is also the most common rice consumed in the world. In the U.S., most of the long grain rice is sold as white rice, but a substantial percentage is further processed and sold as parboiled rice. In years past most of the white rice was exported to Cuba, Iran, and Iraq. Political problems have caused the U.S. to lose all of these markets. Today the largest export stable markets for long grain white rice are to Mexico, Haiti, and Canada. Long grain brown is exported to Europe. The U.S. government also exports large quantities of this rice for food aid type projects. The Saudi Arabian market takes large quantites of parboiled rice. Long grain white rice is by far the most popular rice in the domestic table rice (consumer market) market and a great deal is sold into the domestic market. The Chinese and Hispanic ethnic markets prefer long grain white rice. Parboiled rice is most often used in the industrial and food service markets because of its ease of preparation and durability. It does well in canned and frozen foods. Most restaurants serve parboiled rice.

Some southern medium grain rice is sold into the domestic table rice market in the south, but not much. Much of it goes to the consumer market in Puerto Rico and a great deal of it goes into the industrial market to make rice crispies and beer. Because it is, usually, the cheapest rice in the U.S., some of it goes into U.S. government food aid programs.

Back to TOP

About a third of all California medium grain rice (calrose) is exported to Japan. Then a large quantity is exported to Turkey and Jordan. Calrose is ideal for the domestic industrial markets (rice crispies and beer), but in recent years has been high in price due to pressures from demand in Japan. This type of rice is preferred by the Japanese and Korean ethnic markets in the U.S., but these markets do not take much product. In recent years, more and more specialty short grain varieties of higher quality for table rice purposes have been produced in California for the domestic market.

There is a large domestic industrial use of rice for beer. In particular, the largest user is Anheuser Busch for use in it’s Budweiser beer. In years past this demand was supplied with broken rice. But more stringent quality requirements and a shortage of broken supply have caused the beer industry to buy mostly whole grain rice today. Manufacturers of rice crispy type products also consume a great deal of whole grain, as do manufactures of soups and frozen products. Broken rice generated from milling white rice is generally sold for use in rice flour, dog feed, and beer. Rice flour goes into applications such as baby foods, extruded rice crispies, cereals, snacks, and coatings.

Historically, over half of all U.S. rice has been exported. In recent years the domestic market has grown and over taken the export market. Per Capita consumption of rice in the U.S. has more than doubled in the last ten years and is currently about 20 lbs/capita, but is still very low compared to rice consuming nations (200 to 300 lbs per capita) and so there is plenty of room for growth. Of the rice going to the domestic market roughly 60% goes to table rice, about 25% to the industrial market and processed food, and about 15% to beer. Of the rice that goes export, following are the larger steady customers of U.S. rice and approximate usage figures.

Back to TOP