John K. Saichuk, Schultz, Bruce | 4/28/2005 3:18:14 AM
LAKE CHARLES – Low rice prices and looming federal budget cuts could be offset by a possible increase of U.S. rice sales, according to some experts in the industry.
That was one of the messages at a Tuesday (Feb. 15) meeting for rice producers in Lake Charles that was coordinated by the LSU AgCenter.
During that meeting, Dr. John Fred Denison of the Sweet Lake Land and Oil Co. said rice economist Milo Hamilton has predicted the rice industry is on the verge of an upswing.
The meeting came as many Louisiana rice farmers are making preparations to begin planting next month.
"While the U.S. situation is very bearish, the world situation is very bullish," Denison said.
Rice supplies in Asia have declined, and weather isn’t favorable in many growing regions, Denison said, while rice supplies in the United States are almost twice what they were last year.
U.S. rice prices and the price of Thai rice are similar, he said, and that’s good for depleting the large U.S. stocks.
Rice farmers will be looking for ways of cutting costs this year, but reducing their fertilizer budget isn’t a good place for saving money, experts stressed.
"Personally, that’s the last place I’d cut," advised Dr. Johnny Saichuk, LSU AgCenter rice specialist, a speaker during the meeting at the LSU AgCenter’s Calcasieu Parish Extension Office.
Saichuk said reducing the amount of urea, even though it costs $295 a ton, is a false economy.
"I want to give that plant every chance it can get to grow," he said.
The costs of seed can vary, Saichuk said, adding it may be worthwhile to consider lower cost certified seed instead of registered seed.
Adequate time spent properly calibrating seed drills also will save money on seeding, he said, and it’s possible money can be saved by reducing the seed rate. The LSU AgCenter expert warned, however, that weeds likely will be more of a problem in such cases, because a thinner concentration of rice plants will allow more sunlight for weeds.
Weed control is essential, and a herbicide schedule should be followed closely, Saichuk said.
Pumping water also costs more now with rising fuel costs, but maintaining proper water levels is essential, he said.
"I think that’s the most critical thing in rice production," Saichuk said.
As for other potential saving measures, Saichuk said aviation costs can be reduced by applying fertilizer and possibly herbicides from a ground rig.