BANGKOK, THAILAND — Despite a delay due to weather in this season’s main-crop rice harvest, Thailand is forecast to increase production by 5%, according to a Dec. 8 Global Agricultural Information Network report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The USDA projects rice production to reach 18.6 million tonnes in the 2020-21 marketing year, up from 17.6 million a year ago.

However, the USDA revised Thai rice exports in 2020 lower to 5.4 million tonnes, down 29% from 2019, due to current port congestion caused by insufficient container vessels for shipments between November and December 2020.

“Around one third of the contracted shipments are reportedly delayed until January 2021,” the USDA said.

The USDA also said exports were lower due to reduced white and parboiled rice exports as Thai rice was less competitive in the global market.

“Between January and September 2020, Thai rice was on average $40 to $50 per tonne higher than Vietnamese white rice and $135 per tonne higher than Indian parboiled rice due to tight domestic supplies of white rice,” the USDA said.

Thailand, a perennial global leader in rice exports, shipped 7.5 million tonnes of rice in 2019-20.