USA Rice Shares Production Outlook and Consumer Trends at UK Rice Symposium

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LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – A delegation of USA Rice members and staff visited here last week to participate in the Biannual Symposium of the UK Rice Association, where more than 100 members of the UK rice trade, including importers, wholesalers, and retailers servicing the mainstream and ethnic markets gathered.

Meryl Kennedy-Farr, president of Kennedy Rice Mill, Kennedy Rice Dryers, Planters Rice Mill, and Delta Land and Farm Management, gave a presentation on U.S. rice production and outlook, saying the 2016/17 crop is projected to be the second largest on record with a 20 percent increase in planted acres to 3.1 million this year.  She said U.S. prices are, and should remain, competitive as a result, and she stressed the importance of the UK market to southern long grain producers.

USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward focused on consumer trends in the U.S., including their views on genetically modified organisms, food safety, diet and nutrition, and food preferences, among other topics.  Ward showed several videos of consumer interviews, both hidden camera and “man on the street” style.

Additional presenters shared views on the serious challenges ahead for the UK as a result of last summer’s Brexit vote; a world rice market outlook; and one food company shared its perspective on meeting demands for sustainable rice production while keeping costs down and production up.  

“The UK Rice Symposium is an excellent event with informative presentations and unparalleled networking opportunities,” said Ward.  “We were able to connect with local trade, discuss new opportunities, and further build and solidify our relationships here.”

Following the symposium, USA Rice hosted a dinner meeting with key importers in the UK rice industry, including S&B Herba Foods, Westmill, Tilda, Veetee, Riceworks, as well as the UK FAS Minister Counselor, and representatives of the UK Rice Association.

On the following day, USA Rice members and staff conducted market visits in the ethnic as well as mainstream wholesalers and retailers to see how U.S. rice is sold in these market segments.

“The most important market for U.S. rice sales here in volume terms is still the ethnic sector, including Chinese and Afro-Caribbean communities,” said Hugh Maginnis, vice president of international for USA Rice, who attended the symposium.  “However, we are quite excited that since 2015, two identified U.S. long grain rice brands are also available in the mainstream retail segment in selected Tesco and Asda shops, expanding our consumer base.”

Maginnis said USA Rice supports both market segments in cooperation with the local U.S. rice importers with promotional activities to further increase U.S. rice sales and further establish a brand equity for U.S.-grown rice.