As National Rice Month comes to an end, many California growers are eagerly waiting for the Chinese market to officially open. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently set an aggressive timeline, projecting the first shipments would begin before the end of the year.
The initial agreement was established in July after more than 10 years of negotiation to allow American rice into China for the first time. “It’s a great opportunity for rice in California and we look forward to building that market, probably over that same period, about 10 years,” said President and CEO of the California Rice Commission Tim Johnson.
Progress in getting rice shipments into China is slow going as Chinese officials inspect potential U.S. facilities as part of the agreed upon phytosanitary protocol. Johnson explained the industry is excited at the potential the Chinese market provides, but “we also have a firm grasp of the realities of opening a new market, it takes time.”
Once shipments arrive in the Chinese market the demand will be substantial. Over the past 10 years, China has been increasing their rice imports. Since 2013 China has been the largest importer of rice, taking in close to five million tons last year. “This is the first new commercial market that we have seen in the last decade for our rice and that’s very positive,” said Johnson.