Industry representatives gave their views on the future growth of U.S. rice exports during a session of the 2010 USA Rice Outlook Conference. Panelists included Todd Burich, chairman of the USA Rice Federation's Latin America Trade Policy Subcommittee, and Chris Crutchfield, chairman of the USA Rice Asia, Turkey Promotion Subcommittee. The session was moderated by John Valpey, chairman of USA Rice's International Promotion Committee.

Medium- and short-grain rice is a thinly traded, premium market with strong growth potential, Crutchfield said.  Japan, South Korea and Taiwan account for 50 percent of all short- and medium-grain exports of U.S.-grown rice, while the Australian drought has created an opportunity for U.S.-grown rice in the Oceania region -- with 150,000 metric tons (MT) of U.S.-grown rice being exported there last year and 94,000 MT in the first three quarters of this year.

Other active markets for short- and medium-grain exports are the Middle East and North Africa, where 163,000 MT were exported last year and 140,000 MT in the first three quarters of this year.

Burich discussed the long-grain market and encouraged an aggressive trade policy agenda in this important sector.  U.S. rice farmers export 45 percent of annual long-grain production.

The top export market for long-grain rice is the Western Hemisphere because of its close geographic proximity.  However, trade restrictions with Cuba and the need for a free trade agreement with Colombia remain major obstacles.  The Middle East, especially Iraq and Saudi Arabia, accounts for 10 percent of long-grain exports, while Africa receives five percent.