Arkansas remains largest rice producing state

by George Jared ([email protected]) 1,202 views 

Arkansas is easily the top rice producing state and it’s no surprise it leads the nation in rice exports, according to the State Agricultural Trade database released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Rice exports accounted for $722 million of the state’s total of $3.1 billion in agricultural exports, the report stated. Scott Stiles, extension economist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture said that of the $3.1 billion 78%, or $2.4 billion, was attributed to plant products. The report covers the 2019 calendar year.

“In terms of dollar value, Arkansas ranks first in the U.S. in rice exports, fifth in cotton and 11th in soybeans,” he said.

According to the report, following are the commodities ranked by their respective contribution to the total export value.
• Rice — $722 million
• Soybeans — $679.3 million
• Cotton — $427.3 million
• Other feed grains: barley, oats, sorghum — $73.2 million
• Corn — $71.4 million

Stiles said that “when grain prices were at record highs, the value of our crop exports alone was $3.2 billion back in 2012 and 2013. As commodity prices declined, we saw the dollar value of the state’s crop exports steadily drop from 2014 to 2016.” The trade war with China caused crop export values to plummet.

“That pulled the value of crop exports down to $2.4 billion in 2018 and 2019,” Stiles said. “As we look at the trends in export values, we have to think about the stories and events going on with our key trade partners. China has long been the top export market for our soybeans and cotton. This year they are the top export market for our corn and other feed grains.”

Stiles said that although a state’s actual agricultural export value cannot be measured directly, USDA’s Economic Research Service estimates state exports of total and selected commodities based on U.S. farm cash receipts data. The Economic Research Service compiles data collected by the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Stiles said the next update will be in October.

Despite the state’s position as the top rice producing and exporting state, farmers in 2021 dropped the number of rice acres in Arkansas dramatically. Decade high prices for corn and soybeans prompted the shift. Arkansas rice growers planted about 18% fewer acres this year, falling from about 1.46 million acres in 2020 to about 1.24 million acres. Nationally, rice acreage fell by about 10%, from 3 million acres planted in 2020 to about 2.7 million acres in 2021. This includes long, short and medium grain rice.

Arkansas remains the top rice producing state in the country, growing roughly half of the crop and it remains the state’s top crop export despite the decline in acres. Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist for the Division of Agriculture, said the reported rice acreage was surprisingly high.

“My expectations remain at about 1.1 million acres of rice for the state,” Hardke said. “While growers made tremendous progress in narrow windows to make it possible, it will be surprising to see the final acreage numbers come in this high in the fall. Maybe the final result will be somewhere in between.”