China and rice is a subject of much interest to rice people in the United States right now. What will they buy, when will they buy, from whom and what class of rice will they buy? I have some very smart friends in California who believe if they buy rice from the United States, it will be from California, and it will be short-grain rice. China is rapidly becoming the world’s largest rice importer and most of what they have bought so far in 2012 is long, not medium-grain rice. 

I would not forecast what China would do next in rice for all the tea in China or all the hazelnuts in China for that matter, hence the title of this article. I have talked, however, with a lot of folks about rice in the many visits I have made to China over the 31 years I have been watching and trading the rice market. I am not so sure at the moment what or when they will buy rice from the United States, to be honest.

Maybe the answer is as simple as hazelnuts versus pecans. The Chinese apparently have discovered that pecans are an improvement over hazelnuts, which they have eaten in China for years. It is easier to get the meat out of a pecan than a hazelnut. It is about that simple.

(For more, see: US rice poised for Chinese supermarkets)

Perhaps they want to buy rice from the United States just because we have rice to sell, and it is very easy to buy things from the United States. Rice from the United States is an easier nut to crack than from other Asian origins where political complications and government intervention makes Asia a bit difficult to buy from.

Rice in Asia is more about politics and economics than anything else. In the United States, Australia and some South American countries as well, rice is just another pretty crop to grow and sell for a profit.

The world rice market is not that complicated; it just seems to be a hard nut to crack. I have been cracking it open for the last three decades with some success. If you farm rice in California, be grateful, I call it “rice paradise,” compared to other regions that grow rice. 

If you are interested in picking my brain on what China will do in rice and why, just drop me an email at milo@firstgrain.com. I can send you something I wrote on rice back in June 2012 concerning China. I will also be at the Rice Outlook meeting in San Diego, Calif., Dec. 8-12.