Closing the Gap in Central America

USA Rice Federation is the problem solver for the industry.

BetsyWard

Betsy Ward

By Betsy Ward
President and CEO
USA Rice Federation

One of the most valuable players any organization can have is a Problem Solver. Whether you are talking about business, sport or philanthropy, people who tackle
problems head on and offer up solutions are the ones who can truly impact the bottom
line. As the national trade organization for the U.S. rice industry, the USA Rice Federation is the problem solver for the industry.

Well, our industry has a problem in Central America. While overall rice imports to the region are up 13 percent in the first 10 months of 2014, over the same period in 2013, the U.S. share of those imports is declining. Significantly.

Federation RF Jan 2015

FECARROZ members address the audience during the general session at the 2014 USA Rice Outlook Conference in Little Rock, Ark.

Informal Meeting A Success
To enhance the dialogue between exporters and importers, and learn the true nature of the problems and search for common ground, USA Rice invited members of FECARROZ, the Federation of Central American Rice Industry, to participate in our annual USA Rice Outlook Conference in Little Rock, Ark., in early December. The rice industries from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua accepted the invitation and sent either the current president or immediate past president of their respective rice industry associations to the meeting. We set up an informal meeting between the delegation and our membership, but also gave this important customer group a large block of time in our general session to address conference attendees.

Mr. Mario Solorzano, the current President of the FECARROZ from Guatemala, delivered the joint presentation in which he laid out significant concerns with the quality of U.S. rice, specifically the high chalk content and lower amylose content that results in long grain rice being “sticky” rather than loose and fluffy. He also expressed concern about milling yield difficulties they have been having of late. All members of the delegation had similar concerns, and although they also all indicated that they would like to maintain the trading relationship with the U.S., these continuing problems were forcing them to look to other origins.

‘Common Frame Of Reference’
While we understand what is driving the decision, we want to do what we can to change their minds and get them all back in the U.S. rice camp. To that end, the private dialogue we had between Central American importers and millers and the U.S. producers, millers and merchants, was an excellent step.

The meeting attendees agreed to more regularly exchange technical information so that we can all have a common frame of reference when it comes to things like defining chalk levels. This will, of course, better enable us to identify what commercial U.S. rice supplies will meet the customers’ preferred specifications.

To learn more, visit www.usarice.com.