MUMBAI (Commodity Online): The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has forecasted 4% increase in the global rice output this year with the expected production of 643 million tons of rice in Asian region.

According to the FAO, the Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Iraq, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Philippines are expected to augment the acreage of rice in order to offset the shortfall caused by the drought and flooding.

The rice imports by these countries were seen largely poor in 2010, added the UN agency.

Imports by European and Latin American countries are also set to increase, while they may fractionally decline in Africa. China, Myanmar, Thailand, the United States and especially Pakistan will be the major rice exporters this year to meet the rising global demand. Thailand has been the world's largest rice exporter for the past five decades.

Meanwhile, the global rice consumption is estimated to rise by 2.1% to 454 million tons, milled basis, it said. International rice prices have been on the decline since January, FAO said.