U.S. growers shifting rice acres because of quality concerns

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Heavy rain kept the 200 rice farmers who attended the Horizon Ag Field Day at Tanner Seed Farm near Bernie, Mo., indoors in mid-August. But Horizon Ag representatives and growers still had plenty to talk about because of the multiple issues that confront the industry. Horizon Ag’s Randy Ouzts discussed some of those concerns in this interview at the close of the field day.

Ouzts says U.S. rice acreage appears to be down by 300,000 acres this year, primarily due to lower prices. The Clearfield rice varieties, which Horizon Ag markets, are up to about 600,000 acres, hybrid rice is around 700,000 acres and the remainder is in public varieties. “We really won’t know the total until USDA issues its final acreage report,” he notes.

U.S. rice producers, who are generally paid on yield versus quality characteristics, are paying more attention to quality issues because of complaints by groups like FECCAROZ, the organization of central America’s rice millers. The latter has been switching purchases to competing Brazilian and Uruguayan rice varieties because of the quality issues.

“They say they are losing about 20 percent of the volume of the rice they buy from the U.S. because of the increased milling they’re having to do to remove the chalk,” says Ouzts. Higher chalk content affects the flavor the rice, which is a primary stable in Latin American diets.

Ouzts believes U.S. growers must begin to pay more attention to identity preserved rice to avoid the problems with chalkiness; that is, to separating types of rice with higher chalk content from higher quality rice.

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