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The white staple is high in demand

Rice is an essential commodity. Half the world’s population depends on it for their daily nutrition. It grows annually, requires high levels of irrigation, and works best in tropical temperatures. The common practices involved in preparing the paddy are labor-intensive and time-consuming. Hence its supply tends to be stagnant in the short term. Let’s analyze the latest rice import export data below to find more details and potential opportunities for your business.

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How did we get here?

Long before we used to depend on rice as a staple, we used to forage nuts, berries, and animals. Though rice was a carbohydrate-rich cereal packed with a lot more instant energy. It also allowed entire communities to settle down and depend on it instead of having to forage all day. The earliest traces of rice domestication can be found in China around 7000-5000 BCE. Since then people have domesticated many different varieties of rice all over the world. Then by the 1980s, agricultural technology, like high-yielding variety(HYV) seeds and pesticides optimized production, started sustaining yet more people.

Export analysis

Asia’s hot and humid temperature is ideal for rice cultivation. Many countries have been growing rice for several generations with the industry being crucial to their economies. Some countries are renowned for their own varieties. Like India and Pakistan, which are known the world over for Basmati rice. Thailand is home to the famous jasmine rice which we can also see in the rice export data. During the covid pandemic, food insecurity spread all over the world. All of the biggest exporters of rice drastically reduced their rice exports. India was the only exception as its exports have grown to all-time highs and show signs of continuing to grow in the future.

Top exporting countries (2020)

  1. India ($8.21 billion)
  2. Thailand ($3.88 billion)
  3. Vietnam ($2.74 billion)
  4. Pakistan ($2.14 billion)
  5. United States ($1.92 billion)

Import analysis

Countries like Saudi Arabia, the US, and Iran import a lot of fancier varieties of rice. As seen in the rice import data, Saudi Arabia has imported Japanese sticky rice, Jasmine, and Basmati. These varieties cost more for fewer quantities and rice is not primarily a staple in these places. Countries like China and the Philippines, on the other hand, have a massive demand for cheaper varieties like broken rice. China is both the leading producer and importer due to its massive demand for rice.

Top importing countries (2020)

  1. China ($1.72 billion)
  2. Saudi Arabia ($1.37 billion)
  3. United States ($1.22 billion)
  4. Philippines ($1.21 billion)
  5. Iran ($885 million)

What to expect in the future:

Rice prices have steadily been growing globally and the pandemic wasn’t the only contributing factor. One whole year of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and natural calamities all over the world further exacerbated food insecurity. Pakistan’s production, for example, was also disrupted by the severe floods in 2022. Basmati prices will further increase in March due to increased operational costs in India. India also banned the export of broken rice last year amid shortage concerns over less rainfall in the third quarter.

Ultimately, rice is a human necessity and is not going to go anywhere. Importers should keep an eye on Asian countries neighboring the current leaders like Cambodia, Myanmar, and the Philippines.