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UN food agency lowers 2012 global rice forecast means BUSINESS

ROME - The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) revised down its global rice forecast for 2012 on Monday due to low monsoon rainfall in India, but said world output should still be greater than in 2011.

The 2012 forecast has been revised down by 7.8 million tonnes "due to a 22-percent lower-than-average monsoon rainfall in India through mid-July, which is likely to reduce output in the country this season," the Rome-based FAO said.

Production forecasts have also been reduced for Cambodia, Taiwan, North and South Korea, and Nepal, according to the July 2012 issue of the Rice Market Monitor, which was published by the food agency on Monday.

However, world output is still expected to surpass "the excellent results achieved in 2011," with production forecast to total 724.5 million tonnes.

In price terms, rice has remained "surprisingly stable" after gaining two percent in May, in sharp contrast with maize and wheat markets, it said.

"Amid abundant rice supplies and stocks, the likelihood of a strong price rebound in coming months is minimal, but the future direction of rice prices remains uncertain," the agency added.

China, Indonesia and Thailand are expected to see a rise in rice production, while output in Africa may increase by up to three percent and Australia's harvest was 32 percent higher than last year, it said.

While prospects are good in much of South America, low rainfall and shifts towards more profitable products in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay are behind a seven-percent production drop in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The global rice trade is expected to decline by one million tonnes to 34.2 million tonnes in 2012, largely as a result of reduced import demand from Asian countries, the report said.