Since its birth in December of 1997, the U.S. Rice Producers Association (USRPA) has always enjoyed a strong working relationship with the Consejo Mexicano del Arroz (CMA) or the Mexican Rice Council based in Mexico City. Market research conducted by the USRPA and Texas A&M University more than 10 years ago indicated the importance of a strong partnership in order to grow per capita consumption.
While consumption has grown over the years to 16 pounds per person, in many ways Mexico is still a huge untapped market. No country in the Western Hemisphere has a greater potential for increasing rice consumption than Mexico due to its population of close to 108 million people.
According to the USDA’s Grain: World Markets & Trade report of January 2010, Mexico rice imports have grown to average 550,000 tons (milled basis) annually in the past five years. Domestic production in Mexico has dropped to 260,000 tons per year. Opportunity is staring the two countries’ rice industries in the face.
Mexico’s child obesity
The timing has never been better. Last month, the new leadership of the CMA invited the USRPA to Mexico to discuss a new beginning and a new approach to promoting rice in Mexico. Both groups made a new commitment to a partnership that will provide increased export volume for U.S. rice and provide new opportunities for the Mexican rice farmer as well. Together the two groups made plans to work closer on a variety of activities and secure new partners to address a number of concerns raised by the Mexican government.
According to Armando Ahued, Mexico’s Secretary of Health, his country ranks No. 1 in the world for child obesity. Information from the National Institute of Public Health indicates that in just seven years children between five and 11 years of age with higher than an ideal weight grew by 77 percent. Ahued considers the situation of child obesity to be the country’s most important public health issue. As a result, major changes are being discussed with regard to school curriculums and education.
Groups join forces to help improve diets
Mexico’s Department of Public Education, private sector food companies and a number of foundations will join forces to teach the population about improved diets. Last month at a seminar in Mexico City titled “Salud Alimentaria en las Escuelas” (Healthy Food in the Schools) that was organized by El Universal newspaper with participation by a number of processed food companies, Lorena Cerdan Torres of ConMexico (represents 43 processed food companies) expressed the need to explore the alternatives to formulate products with less fat, sodium and sugar.
Officials from several federal government agencies also participated in the discussions for future plans.
School lunch program
The USRPA’s successful school lunch program in Mex-ico will be enhanced with increased involvement from the Mexican Rice Council and Mexico’s federal government agencies. This partnership will work as a team with other organizations to address the need of nutritional education.
And this is where rice fits in with its message of being sodium and cholesterol free with merely a trace of fat and no trans fat or saturated fat. The numerous other benefits of rice with regard to vitamins/minerals, energy and brain function with only 100 calories per half-cup cooked will be an important tool in the effort.
With research showing that rice consumers have a lower risk of high blood pressure and obesity and are less likely to develop heart disease and diabetes, the message will be effective. Surely 1.3 billion Chinese consumers cannot be wrong!
For more about USRPA, visit www.usriceproducers.com.