Rice: Meeting Puts Quality Issues On Table With Central American Buyers
Houston, we have a problem.
And the problem has nothing to do with the space program but with the quality of US rice being delivered into the important Central American market. This week in Houston, Texas, members of the board of directors for the Central American Rice Federation (known as FECARROZ) met with the leadership of the US Rice Producers Association.
While the two day meeting covered a range of topics, nothing was more important than the continuing debate on the quality of U.S. rice, a subject that the members of FECARROZ have been extremely vocal about, especially since late 2010. Carlos Mejia, President of FECARROZ and a rice miller from El Salvador, reinforced his concern about the poor quality still being received in his market, as did the representatives from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
Carlos Gonzalez of Costa Rica along with Michel Hawit and Kamal Dieck, rice millers from Honduras, expressed their frustration and disappointment with the characteristics (chalk, milling yield, amylose content, cooking quality, etc.) of US rice and the growing complaints from the consumers in their markets.
These complaints are generated by the poor, low income consumers, Mr. Dieck pointed out, as well as those from the upper levels of the economic ladder.
Dwight Roberts, President and CEO of the USRPA, expressed his sincere concerns to the FECARROZ leadership and renewed his organization’s commitment to continue its push for shipments of identity preserved rice to their market as a solution to the problem.
“It is very obvious we are at a very critical crossroads in these markets and it is up to the U.S. rice industry as a whole to properly address this problem because we can no longer go along with dancing around the problem due to a variety of special interests that prevent progress on this subject,” stated Roberts.
Dr. Steve Linscombe, Director of Louisiana State University’s Rice Research Station, noted in a presentation that the quality issue is a complex problem in the U.S. but that the Central Americans should be able to source the kind of rice needed.
He pointed out that 10 years ago Louisiana largely planted just one rice variety, but today at least 10 varieties are planted in the state. He encouraged efforts of shipping identity-preserved rice as the solution to the problem.
The co-mingling of U.S. varieties in shipments to Central America where 20-plus different types of rice are in one vessel strikes at the heart of the problem. The USRPA has been very vocal on the subject of identity preserved rice. While there have been efforts within the rice industry to execute IP export sales, there has yet to be a strong enough push in that direction.
“Unless we improve out logistical methods to sell the customer what he/she wants, then we will continue to see our competition move into these markets that have been so important to the long-grain rice farmer along the Gulf Coast and Delta,” said Roberts, adding that the USRPA must step up its efforts with farmers, merchants and exporters in order to maintain this market. “This is not about giving the customer a new chicken and rice recipe and telling him it will save his market.”