WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2016 - The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is working to certify U.S. mills so that they will be able to export rice to China, now that both countries have agreed on a phytosanitary protocol that paves the way for new trade, a USDA official told Agri-Pulse.

The certification work – making sure that mills are meeting the requirements that China has insisted on in the protocol – is expected to run through the end of February and then the names of the certified facilities will be sent to China, said the official, who predicted there will be at least 30 on the list.

The USA Rice Federation announced Friday it had been informed by APHIS that China, after years of negotiation, had agreed to a phytosanitary protocol that would open rice trade between the two countries. The deal is good news for the U.S. rice industry that depends on foreign markets to sell about half its crop every year.

“We are being guarded in our expectations, but it doesn't take a mathematician to realize that even a small piece of this enormous market could be a very big number for U.S. rice,” said USA Rice spokesman Michael Klein.

It will likely not be until April that China publishes its official ministerial decree, together with the list of certified U.S. facilities, a USDA official said on terms of anonymity because the process won’t be officially complete until China files all of the paperwork. 

Dwight Roberts, president of the U.S. Rice Producers Association, told Agri-Pulse that he has heard rumblings of China possibly wanting an official signing ceremony, but stressed that APHIS was emphatic that the protocol has been agreed upon by both countries.

An APHIS spokeswoman said that while there has been no official signing of the protocol, the agency “can confirm that we and China’s Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine are in the last phase of finalizing this regulatory process.”


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