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A focal institution - Key for a successful market information syst
13 | 06 | 2007
Market information plays an important role for different players in the economy, from policy makers to business community, manufacturers, consumers, and farmers. An accurate and updated market information system will help the market to operate efficiently, reduce cost and risk, and increase production quantity and profits. However, in order to conduct an agricultural market information service for each commodity sector, which fully reflects the current situation and forecasts trends for future, it is necessary to have a focal institution for gathering information (collecting database on crop production, stock and consumption information, trade market and prices, weather conditions…), and analyzing developments that affect the commodity sector.

In USDA, the Interagency Commodity Estimates Committee (ICEC) (under the World Agricultural Outlook Board) serves as such a focal point. There are several ICEC Chairpersons, who leads the review of commodity and agricultural outlook and situation analysis releases by other USDA agencies, and then provide direction in methods used for making forecasts and research.

ICEC Rice Chairperson: Mr. Andrew C. Aaronson

In the case of the United States Department of Agriculture, there are 5 different agencies involved in collecting data, developing a database, analyzing market information system. Each agency has been responsible for different missions and distinct strengths. Take rice as example.

First, the Crops Branch of the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is responsible to report the U.S. supply & use (crop production, rice stocks, agricultural prices). Crops Branch-NASS provides a commodity database for other USDA agencies in the system.


NASS produces survey-based rice database, which draws on NASS’s Rice Estimation Program and Prices Program. NASS rice estimates and publications includes Crop production (monthly) about yield, production; Agricultural Prices (Monthly); Prospective Plantings (March); Acreage (June); Rice stocks (December, March, August, and October); Crop production Summary (Annually)

NASS has its owned field offices (divided into Western and Eastern field offices).

The network which supports NASS headquarters in collecting and disseminating rice data. In each state office organization, there are 3 different sections which are responsible for: (i) survey work with staff interviewers, (ii) estimation work, and (iii) supporting operations.

Take advantage of GIS technology to estimate annual crop production in NASS, USDA

In rice, NASS field offices are located in 6 states producing rice. In Arkansas, the field office is the Little Rock NASS Office. The office collects data and reports to NASS headquarters.

Case study: Litter Rock NASS field office

Little Rock NASS field office sends more than 500 reports to NASS headquarters per year, mostly about yield, crop production, and stock calculations. The frequency of reports differs: some are weekly, and some are produced to mark key points in the rice planting, harvesting seasons. Reports only provide factual information about the real situation, with no comments, no forecast)


- 50 people in office

- 55 staff working part-time (mostly retired farmers, working at home and in contact with the Little Rock NASS office by email and phone)

Methods for collecting data:

Method 1: organize a survey first by internet, then by mail, then by phone, with the last method being a personal interview. For example, they calculate rice stocks (every March, August, December) as follows:

- On-farm stock: sampling and survey by internet (CATI).

- Off-farm stock: including rice stock on mills, warehouse, and storage facilities. The way they do this is by direct contact (make a phone call, send mail, personal visit...) with different people (millers, state agencies) to ask the size of the rice stock. The contact list includes of about 50 people. These people have trust in the NASS field offices, and provide them the true number. The office needs to keep the individual information secret (cannot publish). The contacts are really cooperative with NASS.

Every 5 years, the Census of Agriculture surveys storage facilities, and the NASS field office uses the survey data to find out the updated situation of expansion/loss of storage, and then updates the list of people to ask for stock calculation in the interim years.

Method 2: apply GIS technology to estimate annual crop production (in calculating crop planted areas), for most crops (rice, soybean, corn, cotton, even pasture and grass…)

Second, global weather reports of the USDA/NOAA Joint Agricultural Weather Agricultural Weather Facility report weekly about the weather situation in the previous week and forecasting impacts of weather on crop production in the following week, all over the world.


It releases weekly weather and crop bulletin helps USDA crop analysts and crop assessment analysts and the public to understand weather effects on agriculture.

Every week, the Joint Facility (USDA/FAS) organizes a weather briefing and takes advantage of video conferencing to present NOAA weather experts reporting on global conditions, including the East Asia and Southeast Asia regions. The briefings are attended by the Chairpersons of ICECs, and USDA/FAS; other participants in the weather briefing include all crop analysts and crop assessment analysts from other USDA agencies. The weather briefing not only reports the weather condition within the last week, but also forecasts the weather condition in the week to follow, and its possible impact on crop production all over the world

Third, the crop assessment analysts team in the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) is responsible for collecting and analyzing the changes of crop production by regions and world-wide, each week. FAS is also responsible for reporting monthly world grain market and trade changes and weekly agricultural prices, monthly foreign rice stocks, and for updating and providing the database of production, supply and distribution (PSD) of many countries all over the world in the FAS website.


FAS administers USDA’s PSD online database. The database contains current and historical official USDA data on production, supply and distribution of different agricultural commodities for the U.S and key producing and consuming countries.

The database is updated monthly and is available online, to serve other USDA agencies working on commodity analysis, and the public. FAS is familiar with: (i) constructing balance sheet of world rice supply and demand, (ii) reporting the global situation, and (iii) forecasting changes in major exporters year to year. Crop assessment analysts team has their own database (data estimates and satelines pictures) on crop production and situation. The database can explored by regions, by crop, even by sub-regions within a selected country. People can explore the satelines pictures and precipitation of 3 rice crops in 3 sub-regions producing rice in Vietnam: Red River delta, Mekong delta, and Central Highland.

FAS has its own country offices. In Vietnam, FAS has its own offices in Hanoi and HCMC, supporting FAS headquarters by collecting data (trade market, prices, crop productions) and analyzing policies and markets.

Fourth, commodity program analysts of Farm Service Agencies (FSA) collect U.S export data and calculate and report about the amount of government payment for farmers (marketing assistance loans, direct payment, counter-cyclical payments), and for releasing a program announcement of the previous week’s prevailing world market rice prices and marketing loan gain and loan deficiency payments

Strength: Provided model results and analyses about major commodity-related provisions of the 2002 Farm Act and discussion of provisions of the new legislation and impact analysis in “The 2002 Farm Act: Provisions and Implications for commodity markets” and similar work for the possible 2007 Farm Bill

The final agency, the Economics Research Service, is responsible to report the U.S and foreign analysis of rice market.


ERS’s publications, including monthly outlooks, yearbooks, which strongly support the decision processes of different stakeholders, both in policy formulation and agricultural business, and are widely used by farmers and the public. ERS has commodity experts who analyze and forecast agricultural market development.

ERS’s staff is referred to when answering agricultural policy questions. The 2007 Administration Farm Bill proposal to Congress was prepared by a team led by the Office of the USDA Chief Economist with representatives from ERS and 3 other agencies in USDA. ERS estimates U.S. rice costs of production. The data used to establish rice cost of production estimates are based on producer surveys, a part of the annual ARMS. Producer surveys for each commodity are conducted every 4-8 years. The latest rice producer surveys were conducted in 2000 and 2006.

ERS runs 10-year-baseline projections, which is long-term forecasting model, on more than 40 countries and regions, including Vietnam. The Vietnam baseline projections model (spreadsheet) includes a number of agricultural commodities (rice, sugar, cotton, pork meat, beef…).

Mr. John Dyck, ERS Economist in his lecture on ERS Baseline Projections for IPSARD researchers

And in Vietnam

In Vietnam now, the supply of rice market information still doesn’t meet the requirements of all segments of the rice industry. Private firms don’t accumulate enough resources and capacity, while some government information organizations didn’t develop their activities toward professional levels to meet with market demand. Other non-government associations such as Vietnam Food Association, Vietnam Food and Foodstuff Association engage in trade promotion of rice, and initially providing rice market news, but limit the information to their members inside HCMC. In general, rice market information is released in news, lacking regular analysis, or forecasting information. Meanwhile, manufacturing and marketing activities of the rice sector move very fast, and the demand for market information becomes bigger.

The excess demand for market information has created opportunities for newly entering information organizations, such as Information Center, Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agricultural and Rural Development (AGROINFO), to provide market information.

Since March 2007, AGROINFO regularly release weekly news of rice market of Vietnam. In the initial period, the e-news attracted an increasing number of subscribers’ requests to receive this publication through email. Most of the subscribers are from business organizations related to agricultural sector (Technology Commerce Bank of Vietnam, Agricultural Bank of Vietnam, Vietnam Food Association, Rice companies…) and mass media (Voice of Vietnam, Dow Jones, …), and foreign governments (FAS of USDA in Vietnam). However, in order to provide an agricultural market information product for each commodity sector, which fully reflects the current situation and forecast trends for future, it is necessary that AGROINFO must become a focal agency of gathering information (collecting a database on crop production, stock and consumption information, trade market and prices, weather conditions…), and analyzing developments that affect the rice sector.

Hoang Ngan, Information Center, Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agricultural and Rural Development, www.agro.gov.vn
Wrote from trips in Washington D.C, The United States, May, 2007

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