The U.S. Department of Agriculture has forecasted Mississippi’s 2024 rice crop at 161,000 acres, which would be a 33% increase over how much was planted in 2023. (File photo/MSU Extension Service)

Starkville, MS (May 14, 2024) - Mississippi’s rice crop is poised to be bigger and healthier than it has been in four years - the result of increased planting to meet demand and favorable weather conditions during its emergence.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service, its first Crop Progress and Condition report for the month of May grades just over half the state’s crop as being in good condition. Of the rest of the crop, 37% is fair, with 12% rated excellent. Planting is ahead of schedule, as 84% of the crop is in the ground and 54% has emerged as of May 13.

The USDA’s projected acreage for this year’s rice crop is 161,000 acres, which would be a 33% increase over the amount planted in 2023.

Jason Bond, weed scientist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service and researcher with the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, said growers will start flooding their paddies as early as mid-May.

“There was some rice planted during a couple of dry periods in March, and there were definitely some gaps in planting time during periods of heavy rain in April,” Bond said. “Rice is more favorable economically right now than some of the other crops, so that has driven the planting intentions and increase in acreage. Somewhere between 160,000 and 180,000 acres is realistic for 2024.”

MSU Extension row crop economist Will Maples said the most significant global issue right now involving rice supplies is India’s ongoing ban on non-basmati rice exports, which was implemented in July 2023. India accounts for about 40% of all rice exports.

“The ban was implemented to help lower domestic rice prices and increase supplies,” Maples said. “It has caused importing countries to find alternative suppliers and added volatility to the global rice market. Because this year is an election year in India, it is unlikely that the ban will be lifted before the general election in May. When the ban is lifted, we could see downward pressure on rice markets.

“El Nino conditions in the eastern pacific,” he added, “are also impacting off-season rice production for Thailand, Burma and Indonesia, which will likely tighten global supply.”

The USDA has projected the average farm price in 2024 for rice at $14.50 per hundredweight. That is down from $16.10 in 2023, which Maples attributed to increased production leading to higher ending stocks.

Bond said rice growers will have to get it right the first time when it comes to planting because seed supply is also tighter than normal.

“Projections for seed production are done well in advance. As more acres across the southern rice-growing area have been planted with rice this spring, planting has exceeded the seed production projections for 2024,” Bond said. “Whereas we would usually have extra seed available for replanting, even if it’s not the top choice of cultivar, all of that seed has been sold to supply the demand for seed related to the increased acreage across the Midsouth.”

Though many long-term forecast models call for another hotter-than-average summer east of the Mississippi River, the state’s rice crop would be minimally affected if this comes to pass, Bond said.

“Rice avoids moisture stress associated with typical summer drought conditions because we either grow it as a flooded crop in the case of traditional flooded rice culture or because we irrigate on schedule in the case of furrow-irrigated rice culture,” he said. “However, high temperatures during pollination, which often occurs from mid-July to mid-August, can negatively influence grain yield and quality for rice.”

Bond and other MSU Extension agricultural specialists discuss rice and all other Mississippi-grown row crops on the Mississippi Crop Situation podcast, available online at http://extension.msstate.edu/s....