USA Rice supports new U.S. rice variety in Ghana

LSU AgCenter’s Jazzman enters this important market.

By Jim Guinn
VP, International Promotion
USA Rice Federation

As the fourth-largest exporter of rice, the United States faces stiff competition from the world’s leading rice exporters – Thailand and Vietnam. But as any good marketer will tell you, customers will flock to products that offer exceptional quality, and U.S. rice is in this category in the Ghanaian market.

Ghana is the most important commercial market for U.S. rice sales on the African continent. It is a milled, long-grain rice market and one of the few countries in Africa with no rice import limitations. U.S. rice has a strong reputation in Ghana for its high quality and is preferred by consumers over Thai rice due to its cleanliness, taste, aroma and good swelling characteristics. However, in the past few years, fragrant rice varieties have increasingly gained market share and have been favored by consumers, reducing sales of traditional milled rice.

Promotional Activities Ramped Up

To address changing consumer preferences, USA Rice has utilized USDA FAS funding and rice check-off dollars to conduct intensive promotions in the Ghanaian market, involving FAS staff in Ghana as well as locally available U.S. rice brands.

Promotional activities target foodservice professionals and consumers. Locally available brands are invited to join these promotions by including their U.S. rice brand’s logo in the promotions, thus ensuring that consumers can later identify U.S. rice in the market. These companies pay 30 percent of the program costs, enabling USA Rice’s promotional dollars to extend further and ensure that the activities have a direct effect on rice sales.

Another positive market expansion is the entrance last year of the LSU AgCenter-developed fragrant rice variety, Jazzman. The introduction of this new variety in Ghana was aimed at recapturing market share lost to jasmine fragrant rice that is imported from Thailand.

As nearly all rice consumed in Ghana is traded in open air markets, USA Rice conducted intense promotional activities in major urban centers in Accra and Kumasi. Through these venues, promoters travelled throughout the major markets, educating consumers about the newly available U.S. jasmine-type rice variety and directing them to sellers who stocked it.

The most recent promotional activity in Kumasi resulted in the purchase of approximately 450 metric tons of U.S. jasminetype rice in one week. Promotions such as these will help ensure that U.S. rice remains top-of-mind for consumers in those markets that are becoming increasingly competitive.

Last year, the United States exported 86,093 metric tons of rice (milled rice basis), valued at $52.4 million to Ghana, making the country the tenth-largest export market by volume and value. USA Rice’s promotional activities have boosted sales of traditional milled rice brands as well as U.S. jasmine rice sales and have ensured that U.S. rice importers remain loyal to U.S.-grown rice. Continued FAS funding can further solidify the Ghanaian consumer base and can trickle down to positively affect other markets in Africa.

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