The cash market was slow in terms of trading activity this week, however, there were some notable price improvements throughout the Delta. Overall, the cash market is garnering minimal attention from sellers in the lower Delta who have now shifted their focus to planting. When it’s found, rice in Texas is trading for $6.80 per cwt so long as the milling yield is greater than 55%. According to some sources only 600,000 cwts still resides in the Lone Star state. 

In Louisiana, where supplies are also extremely tight, the market was reported to have firmed to $14.20 per cwt, however, there weren’t any sales confirmed at that level. Planting in both of these states is well underway, which will be reflected in the USDA’s first crop progress report expected to be released next week. In Arkansas, growers are offering $13.25 per cwt but are being met with slightly lower bids, or in some cases no bids at all. The bid in Mississippi has also improved slightly from the past few weeks and trades around $13.25 per cwt loaded barge surfaced earlier this week. Demand for U.S. long-grain lost more ground against last year’s pace this week and is now being reported down 13% YTD.

Paddy exports have worked hard to offset the loss of milled rice demand, but so far, the milled rice gap is just too large to fill. Medium and short-grain demand is relatively flat against last year, despite surging prices in California. The planting situation is far from known in the West Coast state as water sales and cuts are still being deliberated.   

If the container shortage plaguing global trade wasn’t enough, adding insult to injury this week, “The Ever Given” is the container ship now blocking the Suez Canal. On Thursday, March 23rd, the vessel was traveling from China to Europe and was blown off course by a strong gust of wind and is now firmly lodged in each bank of the shipping lane. The blocked traffic in both directions has resulted in one of the largest port disruptions in recent history. The halted trade is causing an estimated $9.6 billion of losses per day, and there are more than 200 vessels carrying oil, grain, and goods that are backed up. They are faced with three options, which are to wait until the ship is dislodged, consider going around the Cape of Good Hope—which adds anywhere from days to weeks depending on destinations, or try to unload and ship via rail for the few carriers that is an option for. Roughly 30% of the world’s shipping container volume travels through the Suez Canal on a daily basis, and the popular trade route accounts for 12% of total global trade. The oil industry will be heavily impacted, as both Russia and Saudi Arabia are the two top exporters of oil through the canal. India and China are the primary destinations for oil, followed by the EU. The only bright spot here is that demand for fossil fuels in the EU is down right now because of a new round of lockdowns on account of COVID-19. The direct impact to the movements of rice are unclear at this point, but will no doubt create repercussions in food deliveries and demurrage charges for traders involved in the region. The current estimates by port authorities to resolve the issue and resume trade ranges from days to weeks. 

The nearby futures contracts showed minor signs of improvement from last week, however, the further out contracts posted small loses, a further indicator of the market telling growers to consider, at least in part corn or beans for the upcoming year. Average open interest was up just over 2% from the previous week but volume dropped by 12%, which usually points to a market attempting to gather momentum in order to bump upwards. However, if that momentum fails to be reached, the market could see a reverse sharply to the downside. Given the fundamentals at hand, upward momentum seems difficult to grasp.

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