U.S. rice sales to China are another step closer to reality.
Rice buyers from China are currently touring California. Having arrived in Sacramento on Sunday, the group will visit rice mills and farms in the state before heading to the Mid-South for more meetings with potential U.S. rice suppliers.
The buyers’ visit follows a September tour by a Chinese delegation checking U.S. rice industry phyto-sanitary protocols and farm set-ups.
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Greg Yielding, who heads the Arkansas Rice Growers Association and has worked to open Chinese rice markets for years, will reprise his role as tour leader for the Chinese. He spoke with Farm Press several days prior to the buyers’ arrival. Among Yielding's comments:
On what has occurred following the first Chinese rice delegation’s visit…
“They were positive about the trip when they returned to China – told me they’d not seen any problems. They had good contacts with APHIS  (USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service) in D.C.
“We haven’t heard anything from them yet, though. They have written up a report and sent it to the Chinese food safety officials.
“APHIS had some meetings with them this week, actually. There were some bilateral meetings in Beijing and (U.S. rice exports) was on the agenda. But nothing has come out of those talks as far as what was accomplished.”
On the Chinese buyers set to visit the United States…
The U.S. Rice Producers Association  has “set up a similar coast-to-coast trip for the second group of Chinese to visit. The group will include two buyers – one is from JUSCO stores (where Yielding conducted many surveys in China to gauge acceptance of U.S. rice) and one is from China Vanguard Group, a really large supermarket chain with over 3,000 stores.
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“We’ll take (the delegation) to visit U.S. rice mills and provide face-to-face meetings with folks who sell rice. We’ll be in California, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana.”
Can they strike a deal now or will they have to wait for the government red tape to be dealt with?
“They’ll wait, I think.
“This is the first time we know of that Chinese rice buyers have been to the United States. I believe these gentlemen just want to make contact, see the lay of the land and what people have to offer.
“As soon as the phyto-sanitary regulations are in place, they’ll be set up to make the purchases.”
Will that mean a third round of tours to finalize those deals or will those be done electronically?
“Following this, it shouldn’t be a big deal to (finalize the purchases). Once they’ve done the site visits and finished the pest risk assessment, APHIS in Beijing should be able to come up with an agreement that fits the Chinese requirements.”
The Chinese buyers will return home in mid-November.
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