The U.S. and China have yet to formally sign the long-in-the-works phytosanitary agreement that will allow Chinese firms to begin importing U.S.-grown rice, but with many thinking that final step is imminent, work continues to get everything else in place. For years, USA Rice has been participating in appropriate food shows and exhibitions in China, developing relationships with the trade there, and bringing Chinese officials to the U.S. to introduce them to the industry here.
Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the agency handling the negotiations and responsible for the import and export regulatory framework of agriculture products to and from the United States, has asked USA Rice to begin compiling a list of mills and warehouses in the U.S. that are both interested in, and ultimately capable of, exporting rice to China.
“For sure there’s a lot of interest – China is a large potential market – but interest does not equal ability,” explained Jim Guinn, vice president of international promotion for USA Rice. “The draft phytosanitary protocol has very stringent requirements and companies will have to put forth significant effort and some expense before they could become eligible to export rice to China.”
Guinn said the facilities on the list APHIS has requested will go through an inspection by the agency to certify the ability of the prospective exporter to perform and with the Chinese quarantine officials conducting site inspections on a sampling of interested and qualified exporters.
There remains no timeline for when the phytosanitary protocol will be signed, but Guinn further points out that once the agreement is signed, there will still be perhaps months of work to do before the first shipment of U.S. rice can head to China.