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American ShipperShipping

China to start importing U.S. rice for first time

After more than a decade of negotiations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Chinese counterparts on Thursday finalized the language of a new protocol that will for the first time ever allow U.S. rice producers to export to China.

   The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its counterparts in China on Thursday finalized the language of a new protocol that will for the first time ever allow U.S. rice producers export their goods to China.
   The United States and China have been hammering out the details of the protocol for more than a decade, according to the USDA.
   “This is another great day for U.S. agriculture and, in particular, for our rice growers and millers, who can now look forward to gaining access to the Chinese market,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in a statement. “This market represents an exceptional opportunity today, with enormous potential for growth in the future.”
   China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of rice. Since 2013, the country has also been the largest importer, taking in almost 5 million tons from abroad last year. According to trade association USA Rice, China consumes the equivalent of the entire U.S. rice crop about every two weeks, making it by far the world’s largest market.
   China first opened its rice market to imports when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, but U.S. rice was prohibited from entry due to the lack of a phytosanitary protocol between the two governments.
   To begin exporting rice to the Chinese market, U.S. rice facilities will need to complete an inspection by China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.
   “We know China wants to send a team here to inspect mills and facilities certified to ship to China, and we are working with USDA to make that happen in the quickest and most efficient way,” said Carl Brothers, chairman of the USA Rice International Trade Policy Committee.
   The U.S.-China rice protocol, which is considered to be the most complex rice phytosanitary agreement ever entered into by the United States with another country, includes operational work plan that spells out the responsibilities for companies wishing to export to China.
   During the past two years, USA Rice has assembled a list of interested rice exporters.
   “The focus of our work is now on supporting a successful visit by China’s inspectors,” said USA Rice President and CEO Betsy Ward.
   USA Rice, in anticipation of the U.S.-China protocol, has already established promotional programs in China. 
   “We’ll tailor our promotion activities going forward to include large trade seminars here and in China to educate Chinese consumers about the types and qualities of U.S. rice,” said Chris Crutchfield, chairman of the USA Rice Asia/Turkey Promotion Subcommittee. “We will also focus on quality and the capabilities of our industry in our stepped up trade servicing activities.”

Chris Gillis

Located in the Washington, D.C. area, Chris Gillis primarily reports on regulatory and legislative topics that impact cross-border trade. He joined American Shipper in 1994, shortly after graduating from Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md., with a degree in international business and economics.

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