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Quality paramount to importers of U.S. rice

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After years of complaints, Central American importers of U.S. rice grow impatient, say quality concerns must be quickly addressed. 

In late August, Tena Bresler, RiceTec president, provided a statement answering several questions posed by Farm Press. Provided unedited, that exchange reads:

What is RiceTec’s response to the FECARROZ letter?

  • RiceTec believes the bigger issue facing our export partners is one of rice price. Currently, U.S. rice is priced at a premium of nearly $300/MT over Vietnamese rice in the world market.
  • If not for hybrid rice, the U.S. rice industry might actually be much smaller than it is today. This is because, in many cases, hybrid rice is the difference between being profitable growing rice and growing another crop.
  • Export grain quality is not a hybrid versus non-hybrid variety issue. It is a U.S. rice industry issue as evidenced by the recent industry-sanctioned study on rice quality. Every rice product has unique grain characteristics, and each buyer has unique preferences regarding those grain characteristics and the price that drives their purchase decisions.

What is RiceTec’s perspective on the issue?

  • The gap between U.S. and overseas rice grain has narrowed as other exporting countries have improved their quality. Additionally, the entire southern rice industry has faced significant weather-related challenges since 2010, with extremely high nighttime air temperatures across much of the production area.We are optimistic that this year’s cooler weather across the region will lead to overall higher quality for the entire 2013 crop.

How does RiceTec hope this will ‘shake out’ in terms of how hybrids and non-hybrids are handled?

  • RiceTec continues to work with the University of Arkansas Rice Processing Program to better understand the best ways to dry and mill hybrid rice, as well as achieve the various desired functional and cooking characteristics. Our goal is to provide the best product for the grower, the processor and, ultimately, the consumer.
  • RiceTec is committed to helping its customers -- America’s rice producers -- remain profitable and competitive in a global economy. We’re doing this by producing high-quality products with desirable grain characteristics.

Despite the letter, the Central Americans, says Roberts, continue to have “faith in the U.S. rice industry. They have faith that the U.S. rice farmer can continue to grow the type and quality of rice they want. … They’re simply concerned about securing a standard supply of good-quality, U.S. paddy rice.”

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 While that is true, it is worrying that FECARROZ – finger cocked to perhaps flick the first domino in a long string -- is now opting to bypass the usual communication channels and is instead reaching out directly to U.S. rice producers with its message of unhappiness. Read that letter’s next-to-last paragraph again.

So, how best to keep those dominoes from tumbling?

Next up: Measuring rice chalk and giving the customer what they want.

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