China to sign agreement allowing US rice imports, USRPA says

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Sept., 14, 2015 -- U.S. and Chinese officials will sign a phytosanitary agreement next week that will allow U.S. rice exporters to ship the grain into the world's most populous country, US Rice Producers Association (USRPA) said in a news release.

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The group said it has been pushing to open the Chinese market to U.S. rice for the past 15 years. It said the agreement will be signed during the week of Sept. 21 when Chinese President Xi Jinping leads a delegation on an official visit to Washington.

“This is great news for our farmers and is a shot in the arm for the market that is so sorely needed,” said Tommy Turner, USRPA's recently elected chairman, who plans to travel to China next month.

In recent years, China has switched from being a rice exporter to importing two million tons or more of long grain rice, with Vietnam being the principal shipper due to a combination of price, proximity and quality, USRPA said. Until now, the U.S. has not been allowed to export to China because rice was not included in the original negotiations that resulted in sales of tons of soybeans, cotton, and other grains to the Asian nation.

While the new protocol was being negotiated, USRPA, with funding assistance from USDA's Foreign Agriculture Service, sent representatives to China to gauge potential demand for U.S. long grain milled rice, if imports were ever permitted.

“The conclusion was obvious - rice milled in the United States would be considered a preferred product deserving of a premium price, in the opinion of the growing consumer class in China,” USRPA said.

USRPA said a number of importers and distributors in China have already been identified, and it is likely that the newly-permitted trade will get off to a “fast start.”  The group said it's not clear how large the trade could become once the logistics and the commercial terms are perfected, but added, “China could represent a significant boost to the U.S. rice market, which recently has been slammed by the loss of markets and low-priced subsidized foreign competition.”

The US Rice Producers Association represents producers in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas.

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