Uruguayan rice exports grow during COVID-19 times

In this year's first two months, it grew by 6.25% compared to the same period in 2019, reaching destinations such as the European Union.
Publication date: 06/05/2020

In this year's first two months, Uruguayan rice sales have grown by 6.25% compared to the same period in 2019. Exports were directed to several markets, including the European Union (EU), which choose to buy from the South American country. Uruguay stands out for having more than 135,000 hectares dedicated to rice cultivation and for its strict compliance with export commitments. 

Besides the EU, countries such as Peru, Mexico, Iraq or Brazil are the main buyers of this cereal from Uruguay, which has achieved sales in the first two months of 2020 for a value of USD 69 million.

A high-quality product

"The countries want to ensure their food sobriety and have turned to Uruguay because it has superior quality grain," the president of the Association of Rice Growers Alfredo Lago explains. 

Currently, only 7,000 of all the hectares dedicated to rice cultivation are destined for the domestic market. During the last harvest season, each hectare yielded nine tons of paddy rice. 

From among the different types of this cereal, the vast majority of what is grown in Uruguay is the fine long grain rice, in addition to medium grain and short grain.

In the last season, which ended on 28 February, the South American country harvested 1,215,000 tonnes of paddy rice, making it the seventh largest exporter in the world. 

The European Union

Usually, the European Union buys between 8% and 10% of the South American country's crop, mainly in its integral and parboiled (vaporized) types. 

At a time when the world is shaken by the advance of the coronavirus, different circumstances cause these numbers to grow. For the general manager of Saman -the country's main rice mill- Leomar Goldoni, increasing sales is always very important for the country. 

According to what the executive explains, Uruguayan products comply with the sanitary conditions required by the European protocol on the use of agrochemicals. 

"Uruguay has a fairly vertical chain integration. Our relationship with producers is very strong and this allows us to develop specific protocols to comply with European Union regulations," he points out.

The main buyer is Germany, while other important trading partners are the Netherlands and Belgium. 

Sales in the Americas

In February, according to data from Uruguay XXI - the investment, export and country image promotion agency - rice exports had a positive variation of 22%, due to the product shipments to Peru, Brazil and Senegal. 

During the first quarter, Uruguay was the main supplier of rice to Peru, with sales of about USD 23 million (58% of total rice imported by the Andean country). These figures marked a growth of 35.3% over the same period in 2019.

In the Americas, where all countries harvest rice, the main consumer is Brazil, followed by Colombia and Peru.

Rice in 2020 

According to a report from Uruguay XXI, exports during the year's first three months reached USD 1,811 million. 

So far, the products with the greatest positive impact have been soya, beverage concentrates, live cattle, pharmaceuticals and rice. 

As for prices, the latter had a positive variation in both January and April, of 11% and 15%, respectively. 

(Based on a note by Santiago Carbone - EFE)