The long courtship of the U.S. rice industry and China is finally set to bear fruit, according to a report from the U.S. Rice Producers Association (USRPA).
The USDA and several agencies under its umbrella have yet to comment on the report.
After years of back-and-forth negotiations – largely based on phytosanitary protocols – Chinese officials have agreed to a set of standards paving the way for U.S. rice imports, the RPA says. The protocol is expected to be signed September 23 when Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Washington, D.C.
“This is a done deal,” says Greg Yielding, executive director of the Arkansas Rice Growers Association, which is part of the USRPA. Yielding recently returned from China after meeting with rice industry counterparts and conducting rice-tasting surveys.
Shortly before Yielding headed to China, he spoke with Delta Farm Press about the long road to a rice trade deal. Among his comments:
I think the last story we did was in late 2012 and the Chinese had put a draft proposal in to APHIS. What’s happened in the intervening time?
“When you left off, the Chinese had sent in the protocol and APHIS was looking at it. Basically, since then, we’ve been back and forth with this. We should have already been selling rice in China.
“The Chinese wanted traps in processing facilities for quarantined pests that they don’t want getting to their rice in their own country. They wanted fumigation – just normal things, really. They want the U.S. rice to be placed in permeable packaging. They want to ensure no pests get into their rice crop.
“Rice is the most important crop and food source for them. So, they want to be extra careful. That’s understandable.
“All countries have protocols for commodities that are imported. Those vary, but everyone has different concerns. That’s certainly true for China just like it is for the United States.
“So we went through a period where some of our folks didn’t want to test for Khapra beetle since it isn’t in the United States. ‘We don’t have it, so why do we have to test for it? Why should we put traps out for it when it isn’t here?’
“Well, the answer to that is China wants to make damned sure we don’t have it, and we don’t get it in coming years without them getting a heads up.”
On the willingness of U.S. mills to provide the Chinese what they want…
“It’s worth noting that from the get-go we’ve had mills in every rice-producing state willing to do exactly what the Chinese were asking for. They want the Chinese business and many already have strict procedures in place because U.S. food companies require them to.
“You know, we’d send something on the protocols over to China and then, after a while, they’d respond. It would then take a long period for us to respond back. Truth is, this is on us not the Chinese. The Chinese haven’t been a problem in this process.”