USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) office in Beijing received a draft phytosanitary protocol from Chinese plant health officials covering prospective exports of U.S.-grown rice to China. A translation of the document has been sent to APHIS headquarters in Riverdale, Md., for review and assessment and to formulate a response.

The U.S. rice industry has been working toward access for U.S. rice to the China market for nearly seven years. With the receipt of this draft protocol, the finish line finally appears to be within sight, but the marathon is not yet won, the USA Rice Federation noted.

“From what we understand, there are a significant number of onerous conditions placed on U.S. milled rice entry into China,” USA Rice Federation President and CEO Betsy Ward said.  “Nevertheless, this is a significant achievement.”

Chinese officials visited rice-producing regions of Arkansas, California and Louisiana last fall to review and observe procedures and protocols at the farm- and mill-level to prevent pests in U.S. rice. The visit was considered to be a key step toward the draft protocol. 

China is the third-largest export destination for U.S. agricultural goods and a potentially lucrative U.S. rice market opportunity. Per capita rice consumption in China is 233 pounds annually. 

Rice trade is controlled by the Chinese government through a quota system, half of which is reserved for state-owned enterprises. Should the China market open to U.S. rice, it is the U.S. mills and trading companies that will establish commercial relations with the Chinese state-owned trading company and China’s private trading companies. The expectation is that China will purchase milled and brown rice from the United States.

USA Rice Federation will continue to work with APHIS, providing information on rice milling and exporting as the agency formulates its response to the draft protocol. USA Rice also has a contractor in place in Shanghai, China, and is poised to begin promoting U.S. rice in China once access is gained.