U.S. rice imports continue to grow, driven by aromatics

imported jasmine

A pallet of imported jasmine sits outside a shop in San Francisco’s Chinatown — photo by Vicky Boyd

U.S. rice imports continue to increase, setting a third consecutive record and now accounting for 20% of the domestic market.

In a recent Rice Yearbook, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service projects imports of 32.5 million hundredweight (rough basis) for 2019/20, up 9% from a year earlier.

Driving the increase is demand for Asian aromatic varieties, primarily jasmine rice from Thailand and basmati rice from India and Pakistan. Together, they account for 70% of U.S. rice imports.

Puerto Rico also is importing cheaper rice from China, accounting for about 8% of total U.S. rice imports and largely replacing U.S. suppliers. Nearly all of China’s rice exports to Puerto Rico are from its government-accumulated stocks of older rice that are sold at well below current trading prices.

Freight costs are much lower for rice shipped from China because of provisions of the U.S. Jones Shipping Act of 1920, which effectively raises the of cost of shipments between any two U.S. ports, such as New Orleans, to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The United States also imports broken kernel rice for processed uses, with Brazil now the largest supplier.

In addition, Italy regularly supplies small amounts of its Arborio rice to the United States.

Read the full report by visiting USDA ERS.