Central American Rice Federation visits Houston

USRPA hosts the organization’s end-of-the-year board meeting

By Dwight Roberts
President and Chief
Executive Officer

For the past several years it has been an important opportunity for the US Rice Producers Association (USRPA) to host the Federacion Centro Americana del Arroz (FECARROZ) for their end-of-the-year board meeting.

Never has the meeting taken on so much importance as this December 2011 meeting because of the difficulties and challenges due to grain quality issues caused by extreme temperatures, panicle blight and other heat-related stress. The effects of both 2010 and 2011 have made it hard for U.S. farmers and millers, as well as the Central American mills who buy paddy rice from the Delta area.

Central American Market

In the 10 years since the founding of FECARROZ and the establishment of the CAFTA agreement, there is no doubt the grain quality problems experienced by U.S. farmers have created the biggest challenges that we have ever had to overcome in this key market for our long-grain rice.

While Mexico is our No. 1 market and now hovers around 800,000 tons per year, the Central American market as a group (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama) has played a vital role for U.S. exports.

Where would the U.S. farming industry be without these rough rice markets?

While 2007 was the largest yearly volume in recent history, 2008 was a special year that saw values much higher, though 100,000 tons less volume. Since 2006, the United States has averaged 620,000 tons of exports to Central America.

The year 2010 saw that figure drop to 577,000 tons as grain quality issues came into play and some areas of Central America produced a larger domestic crop. Fast forward to 2011 that saw a record (17 metric tons paddy basis) South American crop with no quality problems and overnight Mercosur became a seller of rice to Nicaragua, Haiti, Costa Rica, Venezuela and other regional markets treasured by U.S. farmers.

Consolidating Commercial Relationships

The FECARROZ board meeting gave the US Rice Producers Association the opportunity to address the concerns and enlist the involvement of GIPSA, RiceTec, USA Rice Federation, Horizon Ag, Coastal Rice Futures, market advisors, exporters and U.S. rice farmers.

As stated in a thank-you letter to the USRPA from FECARROZ President Fernando Chamorro, “We are sure that our meeting will serve to consolidate our commercial relationships, converting into sustainable competitive business.”

The US Rice Producers Association is committed to the demands of a strong working relationship with the Central American markets and look forward to the next joint meeting of the two groups in March 2012.

For more, visit www.usriceproducers.com.

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