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Price Of Rice Going Up Thanks To Drought And Unseasonably Cool Weather

Eileen Pace

The state’s $600 million rice industry could be in jeopardy. A Texas A & M researcher said the drought and cooler temperatures are placing strains on the rice crop for the second year.

Rice farmers need a break from the drought because since 2011 water use has been restricted for crop irrigation in the rice-producing counties of Matagorda, Wharton and Colorado.

Dr. Ted Wilson of the Texas AgriLife Research Center in Beaumont, said the lack of water has forced some rice farmers out of the business. Some have switched to soybeans for the first time in their farming careers.

Wilson said the two-year impact of the drought has meant a 30 percent reduction in rice acres in Texas, and he says the cooler temperatures haven’t helped either. He said the cool weather makes the plants grow more slowly and reduces yield, and it remains to be seen what the cool-weather effects will be on final production.

Wilson said a year ago, 19 percent of the rice crop was developing new grains -- this year only about 10 percent of the state’s crop has shown grain development.

Wilson said the three counties most affected by the drought represent more than 70 percent of the state’s rice and consumers can expect to see higher prices at the retail level. The rice crop is generally harvested in August and September.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.