According to a Dec. 21 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. rice exports to Colombia declined 66 percent in 2016, on account of a strong U.S. dollar, enhanced Colombian domestic rice production and increased competition from Mercosur and other cheaper markets. “Colombian rice imports vary in direct correlation to the quality and quantity of its domestic rice crop, which increased in 2016 thanks to high local prices and government incentives,” the USDA noted in the report. “In the first semester of 2016, Colombia imported rice for the first time from Uruguay and Paraguay after granting phyto-sanitary access to Mercosur countries at the end of 2015.” The decline in exports dropped Colombia to the ninth largest market for U.S. rice exports, down from the fourth largest market in 2015, the USDA said.
Rice, with per capita consumption of about 40 kilograms (80 pounds), is one of the key basic staple foods in Colombia. The country only is able to fulfill about 10 months of its consumption needs through its domestic production and therefore needs to import the balance grain. As domestic prices for rice have increased, so too has domestic production, according to the USDA. In 2015, average grower prices increased by more than 32 percent over 2014, which prompted rice growers to enlarge dry-land rice area planted for the 2015-16 growing seasons. According to the Colombian Rice Growers Federation (Fedearroz), over the past two years the area planted expanded by 177,000 hectares, resulting in a forecast 2016 production of 2.5 million tons, 32.3 percent higher than last five year average production.