PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

January 7, 2013

Heavy rainfall relieves rice farmers

Brooke Crum
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — For Mike Doguet and Doguet’s Rice Milling Co., the robust amount of rainfall that railed Southeast Texas last year was a relief. And it did not even require a rain dance.

“We got lucky,” Doguet, general manager of the company, said.

The Beaumont/Port Arthur area received 63.73 inches of precipitation in 2012, said Donald Jones, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Lake Charles, La. And some of it fell on New Year’s Eve.

While Doguet’s contracts with rice farmers all across the Lone Star State, some of the company’s rice is fueled by the Neches River, Doguet said.

Last year was a “pretty good year” for the rice milling company, but this year may not be quite as wet. Doguet said the Neches River has been a little low — around 143 feet — and that could limit the company’s rice production if the water level does not rise.

The rest of the state was not as fortunate as Southeast Texas in terms of precipitation last year. Approximately 12 percent of Texas has been experiencing an exceptional level of drought, Jones said, which is the highest drought designation. And that area could increase in size if the skies do not open wide sometime soon.

“It’s almost the luck of the draw,” Jones said of where and when rain falls.

The cultivation of rice requires a lot of water — about 3 acre-feet per acre per year, said Doguet, a rice and cattle rancher. So it just could not grow without rain.

“A lot of people depend on rice farmers,” he said.

Indeed, more than 3.5 billion people worldwide depend on rice for more than 20 percent of their daily calories, according to the International Rice Research Institute. That is half of the world’s population.

In 2011, Doguet’s lost about 60,000 acres of rice due to the drought.

“It was a pretty scary year last year,” he said.

And this year, the rice milling company could lose up to 30,000 acres of rice if the rain does not start falling soon.

email: bcrum@panews.com

twitter: @broocrum