Rough rice trade between the United States and Mexico has resumed after having slowed to a trickle beginning mid-December when Mexican officials objected to the presence of a fungus, Tilletia horrid, on the rice. The fungus, found on rice hulls, is present in the United States and is removed in the milling process. It is a plant pest and has not been reported as a food safety concern.

USA Rice Federation staff members worked through the holidays with Mexican officials, the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and the Foreign Agricultural Service in Mexico City and Washington to resolve the issue.

“Trade is reported flowing again but with new restrictions that add cost, time and complexity to the process,” USA Rice Senior VP Bob Cummings said. “Treatment of rice in which the presence of the fungus is confirmed involves a period of fumigation before the product can proceed to the mill.”

USA Rice and APHIS are working together to demonstrate to the satisfaction of Mexican authorities that the fungus is already present in Mexico so that delays of future shipments may be avoided. Free and open trade with the largest U.S. rice export market is critical to the U.S. rice industry.