Aug 15 (Reuters) - U.S. rough rice futures surged the most in five years on Monday as floodwaters submerged mature fields in the South and farmers and millers braced for crop losses, rice traders and specialists said on Monday.
More than 2 feet (61 cm) of rain fell in three days in southern Louisiana, overwhelming rivers and forcing thousands to leave their homes, before the storms and flooding threat moved west to Texas.
It will be days before the extent of the damage from the unprecedented flooding is known. At least seven people have been killed and U.S. President Barack Obama declared a disaster in Louisiana.
Rice fields that were ready to be harvested were saturated while winds also knocked down plants, likely causing “sprouting,” when grain germinates in the field, according to Steve Linscombe, director of Louisiana State University’s rice research center near Crowley, Louisiana.
“This is the highest I’ve ever seen the waters,” Linscombe said, adding that he has worked in the rice industry for 30 years.
Louisiana is the No. 3 U.S. rice producing state, after Arkansas and California, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Rice futures on the Chicago Board of Trade surged 6 percent, or 59 cents, to $10.25 per cwt, a three-week high. The daily gains were the biggest since July of 2011, and the two-day rise of roughly 10 percent were the largest jump since 2003.
“All you have to do is look on TV. It’s all the flooding that’s doing a number on a lot of rice fields in southern Louisiana,” Price Futures Group analyst Jack Scoville said.
CBOT rice was rebounding from roughly 14-month lows reached earlier this month, before the flooding forced investors to exit bearish bets. Prices have been under pressure from USDA outlooks for record-large U.S. stockpiles.
The rice harvest in Louisiana was 55 percent complete and 13 percent finished nationwide as of Sunday, USDA said.
“I don’t think we’ll know anything for 24 hours,” said Milo Hamilton, analyst at Firstgrain, an advisory in Texas. (Reporting by Michael Hirtzer in Chicago; Editing by David Gregorio)