Let’s talk about a subject that
would have been a dream just a
few years ago. Yes, this is not
your grandfather’s market.
China: Are you kidding me?
We know China as the world’s largest
consumer and producer of rice, so why an
interest in U.S. rice? We have seen China
importing rice in recent years, a trend that
has grown to over one million tons during
2012 – three times more than the previous
year. We knew we could not compete for
the large bulk market, but funding awarded
from the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural
Service to USRPA under the Emerging
Markets Program acknowledged the positive
feasibility of such an effort, according
to USDA specialists based in China.
For the next seven years, extensive market
research activities such as in-store tastings,
consumer surveys and interviews
with importers were conducted in a number
of upscale supermarkets of large cities.
The results told us that higher income consumers
have a strong willingness to purchase
high-quality prepackaged U.S. rice.
In September of last year, the USRPA
hosted the Chinese government quarantine
and inspection officials to the USA to visit
all aspects of our rice industry. The group
visited the rice states and returned home to assess its findings.
In November 2011, the USRPA hosted
two major Chinese importers who are anxious
to get their hands on high-quality
packaged U.S. rice. Mr. HeZhiZhong from
China Resources Vanguard Co., Ltd. and
Mr. Alan Zhang of Aeon Co., Ltd. represent
large business conglomerates. Aeon, a
one-trillion-dollar company operates some
Last month in California, a meeting of
the USDA’s APHIS and the Chinese counterparts
produced a draft protocol, which
was shared with numerous rice mills to
gain feedback to APHIS. The bottom line
question to our mills, “Can you feasibly
ship rice to China under these conditions?”
Mills Consider Chinese Draft Protocol
At the encouragement of the USRPA, an
initial conference call between our mills
and APHIS was conducted. While some
mills feel the Chinese draft is quite doable,
other mills see a number of obstacles in
this first protocol draft. The next step,
according to APHIS, will be an updated
and adjusted protocol version going back
to the Chinese for their review.
With input from U.S. rice mills, APHIS
and a positive overall joint effort to resolve
what are considered by many to be minor
obstacles, we could have access to a new
market in 2013 that is calculated to be
some 250,000 tons of U.S. milled rice.
As commented Mr. HeZhiZhong from
China Resources Vanguard, “We look forward
to having U.S. rice in our stores. The
initiative of USRPA has been an instrumental
aspect of this entire effort, and we
expect continued progress to a successful
protocol. Greg Yielding and the board of
directors of the USRPA deserve all the credit
for making this project a reality, and
American rice farmers should be proud.”
For more, visit www.usriceproducers.com.