Earlier this week USA Rice embarked on an important mission to distribute long grain rice samples to the two major rice industry leaders in Nicaragua, Agri-Corp and Samuel Mansell S.A. Together they represent 80 percent of the market share in the Nicaraguan rice industry and are both longtime purchasers of U.S. rice.
Historically, Nicaragua consistently imported more than 100,000 metric tons of U.S. rice annually; however, in 2010 they began to diversify their suppliers to include Brazil, Uruguay, and Guyana due to concerns about U.S. rice quality after a rebuke of the product by consumers. Nicaragua also has developed more advanced systems and technologies to improve the yield and quality of their national production, so much so that currently 70 percent of their national consumption is supplied by rice grown in country.
Quality of U.S. rice was the main topic for discussion during the meetings. The leadership of each organization spoke candidly about the importance of an alliance with the United States and how they were forced to consider other suppliers who provided the quality of rice preferred by their customers.
Rice Cooking Test
The meetings first included a cooking test comparing samples of a previous shipment of U.S. rice to Brazilian and Nicaraguan varieties. Clearly the U.S. has work to do and executives from Agri-Corp and Samuel Mansell explained why the competition prevailed: from a Nicaraguan consumer perspective, quality is based on whiteness, grain uniformity, little chalk, and above all, no stickiness. U.S. rice lagged behind the competition on all fronts.
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Rice Variety Evaluation
Next, the importers evaluated nine U.S. varieties brought to the country. In a blind test based only on appearance, every importer identified Cheneire, Presidio, and PVL01 as options to be considered for further analysis. However, after judging all nine in a standard cooking test, the top three were CL163, Cheniere, and PVL01 in that order. These three rated above five on their 0-10 scale which indicates acceptability for Nicaraguan consumers.
“We appreciate the opportunity to openly discuss our concerns with USA Rice, and we desire to work with North American suppliers to once again promote U.S. rice as the premium product in the country,” said Fernando Mansell, general manager of Samuel Mansell S.A. “It is in our best interest to have a strong business relationship with our U.S. counterparts, however, our priority is to provide the Nicaraguan market with the product they demand.”
“There is no doubt that we have some quality concerns from our Nicaraguan counterparts,” said USA Rice’s Dr. Steve Linscombe who conducted the tests. “I am confident they can be addressed if we have the wherewithal to ensure that the rice distributed to the country is of the quality standard that they require.”