The international market for Arkansas rice producers is teeming with possibilities, an industry official told the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board Thursday.
Chuck Wilson, director of Arkansas Field Services for the USA Rice Foundation, said Mexico figures to be the number one market in the world in the next few years due to a young population, inability to grow rice due to water issues as well as good export and trade in the region. Wilson said the dropping of a tariff from Mexico in 2008 helped open the market, with rice going into the country.
However, Wilson said the price of American rice in recent years has hurt this country’s opportunity to sell in Mexico. Wilson said there has been at least 300 marketing projects conducted by rice producers in recent years to reach the market, with little success.
Wilson said another potential market is Columbia. The South American country is the second largest market for American rice with weather conditions leading to Columbians not growing their rice. A similar marketing project has been successful in Columbia, Wilson said, noting markets like China, Haiti and Central America provide promise as well. Wilson said Haitians like American rice because of its consistency with other varieties like Vietnamese rice not being popular.
Wilson said word is getting out about the domestic production of rice. The group is working with medical professionals to stress the importance of eating rice as part of a diet.
Wilson said there is a program with students in grades 3-6 to educate students about rice. The program is being implemented in 5,000 schools in six states in the southeast and southwest United States. He said the group is also using social media to spread the word.
RICE FOUNDATION AGREEMENT
The board discussed but took no action on a proposed memorandum of understanding between the board and the Rice Foundation. Assistant Attorney General Grace Ellen Rice spoke about the agreement. She said there has been many discussions over the issue and that everything is still in the discussion phase.
According to the agreement, the board and the Virginia-based foundation will work together on a variety of issues with a focus on financial services. The work will include using funding from the board’s participation in the Columbia Rice Export Quota program to help fund research projects for the Arkansas rice industry and other rice producing states.
The board and the Rice Foundation may terminate the agreement within a 30-day period and written notice, under the proposed agreement. Board chairman Bryan Moery of Wynne said Rice has spent a lot of time working on the agreement, noting board members will spend ample time reviewing the document before it is approved.
The proposal will be discussed further and possibly approved at the board’s February meeting.