A New Year's Surprise From China for the US Rice Industry

By Bob Cummings, USA Rice

BEIJING, CHINA -- USA Rice's office in China reports that China Customs has announced on its official website that the China market is opened for the import of U.S. milled rice effective from December 27, 2018, in accordance with the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Protocol signed between the United States and China from July of 2017.

"This is a tremendous milestone that has taken more than a decade to reach and is a result of the insistence from USA Rice in including rice as a step in resolving the trade dispute between China and the U.S.," said USA Rice Chair Charley Mathews, Jr., a California rice farmer.  "As with all our dealings with China, the devil is in the details, and we have many questions, including when the first sales will be made, but this is definitely good news for our producers and millers as we enter the New Year." Recently China made large purchases of U.S. soybeans that received widespread media coverage, however, imports of U.S. rice were illegal in China and several administrative steps, such as today's action by China Customs, were necessary before actual sales could take place.  

China will now need to post the list of approved U.S. export mills and facilities of milled rice developed in consultation between the U.S. rice industry, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and China's Agricultural Inspection Service.  In 2017, USA Rice worked with U.S. and Chinese government officials to facilitate Chinese inspections of some 10 U.S. mills and facilities interested in exporting rice to China to demonstrate their compliance with the complex U.S.-China phytosanitary protocol. 

"What is still not 100 percent clear is whether China has published the complete list of all the U.S. facilities approved to ship to China," said Bobby Hanks, Chair of USA Rice's International Trade Policy Committee and a Louisiana miller.  "We will be looking in the days ahead to USDA and the U.S. Trade Representative for clarification to make sure that all approved U.S. facilities are eligible.  We of course are looking for the first confirmed rice sale to China.  This important day for the U.S. rice industry is the result of the trade policy leadership of the Trump administration and the commitment of Secretary Perdue to open new markets for U.S. agriculture," concluded Hanks.