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Maintain the ‘Gold Standard’ reputation
of U.S. long-grain

USA Rice members aim to secure marketability and competitiveness.

By Robert Cummings
Chief Operating Officer
USA Rice Federation
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USA Rice Federation members took on a new multi-year challenge in February 2011 to bolster the marketability and competitiveness of U.S. long-grain rice in domestic and international markets.

The Rice Marketability and Competitiveness Task Force aims to secure the future marketability of U.S. rice, which depends on producing high-yielding varieties that mill well and producing a product that consumers across the value chain want to buy. Competitiveness means rice that provides good returns to growers and that looks and tastes good to customers.

The goal is to provide reliable data to rice researchers and breeders about the market’s assessment of current varieties as well as identifying those characteristics that the market values. This will provide important assistance to the breeding and seed development community as they develop new varieties.

Sampling And Assessment Protocol

The task force is completing its first task – setting up a sampling and assessment protocol to evaluate varieties of U.S.- grown and imported long-grain rice against a series of quantitative and qualitative factors. What does this mean in practice? The group seeks to develop data over time that will measure such tangibles as kernel length, width, presence of chalk and bran streaks, as well as qualitative factors like appearance, kernel color and luster.

While the process of refining sampling and testing protocols continues, an initial assessment was made last year of longgrain varieties grown in 2010. Rice research stations in all six rice-producing states provided paddy rice samples, and all were milled by Louisiana Rice Mill.

Quantitative Factors Assessed

Samples were then sent to nine rice mills that volunteered to conduct a qualitative assessment against several factors. Samples of the same varieties were assessed by USDA’s Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuttgart, Ark., against a series of quantitative factors under the direction of Dr. Anna McClung. The results of all the assessments are expected to be provided to the task force early this year.

The task force is currently working on an evaluation protocol for the 2011 crop as well as evaluation of imported long-grain rice. The assessment methodology will be refined based on the experience of the past year. The focus will be on examining varieties and characteristics of broad interest to the market. This means assessing those varieties in widespread cultivation against a defined number of characteristics.

Developing The 2012 Program

Looking further ahead, the 2012 crop assessment will entail varietal grow-outs in controlled environments (likely on research plots) assessed against a written protocol. Development of the 2012 program is currently underway under the technical guidance of Drs. Steve Linscombe of Louisiana State University’s AgCenter, Terry Siebenmorgen of the University of Arkansas and Anna McClung.

Rice Marketability and Competitiveness Task Force members represent all segments of the industry – growers, millers, merchants, seedsmen and researchers. The initial leadership of the task force is from Mike Skuodas, Riviana Foods, and Nicole Montna Van Vleck, a California rice producer.

The group is assisted by researchers, academics, industry and government advisers and will be working with relevant USA Rice board committees to identify challenges and recommend next steps to the industry in the coming years.

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