WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — A devastating panicle blight disease affecting the major rice growing regions of Venezuela is expected to contribute to the lowest output of milled rice in that country since 1972, according to an April 9 Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).


Production of rice in the 2018-19 marketing year is forecast at 140,000 tonnes, down 49% from 275,000 tonnes in 2017-18 and compared with 305,000 tonnes in 2016-17, according to the USDA.

The disease also is forecast to have an impact on area harvested to rice, with forecasts for 2018-19 at 70,000 hectares, down from 135,000 hectares in 2017-18.

“According to FEDEAGRO (the Venezuelan Agricultural Federation), it will be difficult to project the exact impact of the disease until the latter half of the rice growing cycle during the grain filling/ripening stage,” the USDA said. “However, grave results are likely given the lack of chemical inputs to control and/or mitigate the impacts of the disease.”

Nearly all of the rice produced in Venezuela is consumed by humans. According to the USDA, total domestic consumption is forecast at 440,000 tonnes in 2018-19, down 22% from 2017-18. The agency noted that product shortages and declining purchasing power from hyperinflation are the key restraints to consumption.

“Low purchasing power, product scarcity and hyperinflation, are pushing people to switch to cheaper carbohydrate substitutes, such as plantain, yucca, potatoes and others,” the USDA said.