As U.S. rice farmers bring in a new crop, rough rice prices have rallied a dollar since June. While U.S. prices vary, farmers rely heavily on consistent consumption at home each year.
“The biggest market is the domestic U.S. market overall,” said Johnny Sullivan, Producers Rice Mill, located in Stuttgart, Ark. “That’s where I’d say about 60 percent of the rice grown in the U.S. stays in the U.S.”
September is National Rice Month, celebrating the various uses of rice. The grain is gluten free, and also features whole grain qualities. It’s those traits that mills say are helping the crop grow in popularity domestically.
“Many ingredients that are made from rice are also gluten free for additives, for nutritional bars and different things such as that,” said Sullivan.
Once the American made rice leaves the field, it’s processed in the mill and turned into popular products like beer. Sullivan says consumers of Budweiser or Bud Light are already a big supporter of home-grown rice.
“Anheuser-Busch is virtually the largest buyer of rice in the world,” said Sullivan.
From brews to puppy food, milled U.S. rice is growing in use.
“Even puppy rations use a large amount of rice now because they found that it’s very soothing to the puppy’s tummies,” said Bill Reed of Riceland Foods, the world’s largest rice miller.
What doesn’t get consumed domestically needs a home, and today, there are a few countries that top the export list.
“Most of our rice is marketed into the export markets in the Western hemisphere – many of the Caribbean Islands, as well as Central America are big rice eaters,” said Reed.
“Most of that rice in California is consumed domestically, and then about 25 percent is shipped to Japan,” said Chris Crutchfield, CEO of American Commodity Company, based in Williams, Calif.
The rice industry says they’re lockstep with the rest of agriculture on current trade deals like NAFTA, urging the administration to do no harm in agriculture’s slice of current trade pacts.
“Mexico is our largest market,” said Crutchield. “Almost of its rough rice market or raw material market, and then Canada’s is our third largest.
Another scrutinized deal that Crutchfield fears could potentially pose fallout for rice is South Korea.
“That’s a deal that rice was excluded from,” said Crutchield. “While we don’t necessarily have a say in the technical aspect of the agreement, we do export a lot rice to…