Spreading the word globally

USA Rice promotions in nearly 25 countries help tell the U.S. rice industry’s positive story.

Betsy Ward
By Betsy Ward
President and CEO
USA Rice

I think everyone in the rice industry knows we export about half of our crop annually, making us highly dependent on market conditions around the world. But the flip side is that we need to have a strong promotion presence in a lot of different markets.

I am just back from meetings in Toronto, Canada, where USA Rice worldwide staff and industry representatives from Arkansas, California, Louisiana and Mississippi met to review our overseas promotion programs and plan for the coming year. The amount of work we do overseas is impressive, and I wanted to share some of it with you.

The right rice for the market

USA Rice conducts more than 1,700 individual promotion activities in almost 25 countries, and we reach millions of consumers of U.S. rice through advertising, cooking demonstrations, chef competitions, recipe books, trade shows, social media and more.

And we conduct these activities promoting the type and form of rice desired by each market. This includes milled rice for Japan or Haiti, rough rice in Mexico and Central America, and parboiled in Saudi Arabia.

In every case, we tell the story of U.S.-grown rice, but we use different parts of the story depending on what resonates strongest in each market.

In Mexico, our top market by both volume and value, and in China, where we do not yet export rice but expect to soon, food safety is front and center. Consumers like to hear about the regulations we adhere to and the oversight bodies supervising our food production.

In the United Kingdom, a solid and growing market for us, consistency, reliability and sustainability are front and center.

And of course, the excellent quality of U.S.-grown rice is present in all of our promotions, especially in places like Hong Kong, Jordan, South Korea and Taiwan.

Canadian consumers appreciate all of those things but also like to hear about the health benefits of U.S. rice. We communicate this to them, along with messages about our great sustainability record and conservation efforts.

And no story is complete without reminding consumers that our product is GMO free. Today’s U.S. rice farmers produce more crop on less land with less water and energy and without the aid of genetic modification. And that’s something of particular importance here at home but also in the European Union.

Free trade is imperative

china fancy food show
Attendee interest was strong at the USA Rice booth during the Food and Hotel China show recently in Shanghai. A chef prepared samples using five different types of U.S. rice from the South and California — photo courtesy USA Rice

Our promotion efforts around the world are certainly varied, and we work to ensure they are responsive to local interests, customs and needs. We are always looking for new markets for U.S. rice in even more countries than the ones I mentioned above.

We also put resources against tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade that can harm our industry. Keeping open and expanding markets and finding new opportunities are of paramount importance to you and us.

We share our success stories with the U.S. government, which helps fund our programs through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service. We encourage them to continue to support our work and also to send the message to the Trump administration that agriculture creates a trade surplus.

We need the continued support of FAS. And we need an administration that appreciates the value of agricultural trade and understands that absent good trade agreements, like the North American Free Trade Agreement or the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, we could be in real trouble.

I left our planning meetings encouraged by the successes of the past year and excited for our programs going forward. I look forward to sharing more success stories in these pages in the months ahead. More importantly, I look forward to you seeing more of your rice finding devoted customers here and around the world, thanks in part to our efforts.

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