Quality is in the Eye of the Beholder

Dow BrantleyBy Dow Brantley Rice producer, Chairman of USA Rice Federation, England, Ark.

In the case where the rice customer is the beholder, then as the old Ford slogan once proclaimed – “Quality is Job One.” An emphasis must be placed on quality by every segment of the marketing chain. The world market is not static, and dramatic changes are affecting markets at our doorstep. The best example is our top market – Mexico. The U.S. share of the Mexican market was 99 percent as late as 2010, but we have fallen to just 78 percent in the first nine months of 2014. Thankfully, the U.S. industry is addressing the problem to find and implement solutions.

We’ve taken a long-term approach, establishing a protocol to evaluate potential new U.S. rice varieties, looking at parameters such as bran streaks, chalk, kernel color, uniformity of length and overall appearance. The parameters are graded by mills on a number scale that will prevent substandard varieties from making it to market. While the program is voluntary, I would encourage all plant breeders developing new rice varieties to participate in the protocol for maximum impact. And, of course, we’re putting great emphasis on rice research to provide growers with high yield varieties that meet the quality demands of the customers.

We’ve taken a long-term approach, establishing a protocol to evaluate potential new U.S. rice varieties, looking at parameters such as bran streaks, chalk, kernel color, uniformity of length and overal l appearance.”

We also work directly in the marketplace to help pave the way for those varieties and ensure end users feel good about the U.S. rice supply and the price they’re paying. We are able to trade on the United States’ unrivaled reputation for reliability, belief in the sanctity of contracts and having the most robust food safety controls in the world. And finally, the U.S. can supply the type and form of rice the customers desire without limitation.

We’re rolling all of this progress up in Mexico with a new authenticity seal that will drive customers to us, while also putting pressure on cheap imitators and unscrupulous individuals who try to blend high-quality U.S. rice with lesser quality origins.

We have significant challenges, but we have a real plan, like the Seed Plan of a few years ago, that I am confident will deliver and restore the U.S. rice industry’s reputation as the global leader in quality and food safety.