• U.S. Rice Makes an Impression at FABEX

    by Deborah Willenborg | Apr 17, 2017
    Taste-testing at the USA Rice booth
    2017 FABEX
    TOKYO, JAPAN – Last week, USA Rice participated in FABEX, the World Food and Beverage Great Expo, introducing new menu ideas using U.S. medium grain rice.  FABEX is a trade exhibition targeting foodservice and deli operators, and more than 77,000 traders visited during this year’s three-day show.

    “Going into FABEX, USA Rice had three strategic objectives,” said Jim Guinn, USA Rice staff who attended the trade show.  “First was to showcase new uses of Calrose, second was to provide taste-testing opportunities for targeted traders, and third was to share information about U.S.-grown rice across the supply chain.”

    Guinn said Calrose was highlighted in twelve menu samples packed in plastic containers for deli take-out, a growing sector.  Additionally, more than 1,500 samples of two menus – rice salad sushi style and gumbo with turmeric rice – were shared with visitors.

    “We also conducted one-on-one taste-testing sessions for 19 foodservice-related companies who invited their rice suppliers – leading wholesalers,” Guinn added.  “Half the companies were already using U.S. medium grain but all said the new style menus had inspired them to get creative when coming up with their own original dishes using U.S. medium grain.”

    Private import of U.S. rice under the Simultaneous-Buy-Sell (SBS) has risen dramatically in the past year due in part to the dearth of reasonably priced local varieties of rice suitable for foodservice and Guinn said at least 150 traders requested additional materials and samples to learn more about U.S.-grown rice.
  • Japan Resumes SBS Tenders

    by Deborah Willenborg | Dec 13, 2016
    Back to business
    ARLINGTON, VA -- Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF) announced earlier this week that rice import tenders under the Simultaneous-Buy-Sell system (SBS) will resume on December 13.  SBS tenders were halted in October following reports in the Japanese press of “adjustment money” being paid by rice importers to wholesalers and distributors in Japan.  Concern arose about the price impact and legality of such payments.  A MAFF investigation found no negative impact, but changes were made to tendering procedures and guidelines.

    “Although a relatively small portion of Japan’s overall rice imports, SBS tenders are critical to the success of USA Rice’s promotion efforts in Japan,” said USA Rice Vice President of International Hugh Maginnis.  Friday’s tender will be for 30,000 metric tons of rice from all origins, made up of 27,000 MT of whole kernel and 3,000 MT of milled rice.  Rice imported under the SBS system is destined for end users such as the foodservice sector, while imports through the larger ordinary minimum access tenders end up in government stocks or released for industrial and/or feed use.  Total imports under SBS are expected to be 100,000 MT in the current Japan fiscal year (JFY, April 2016-March 2017).  Japan’s total rice import commitment each JFY is 682,200 MT.

    “We were very concerned when the SBS tenders were suspended,” said USA Rice COO Bob Cummings.  “Consistent market access to Japan’s consumers is always a challenge, and U.S. exporters are anticipating better success in SBS this year because of more competitive U.S. prices, so we are pleased that the tenders will resume.  We will continue to monitor the pace and success of SBS tenders.” 

  • FAS Predicts Continued Drop in Per Capita Consumption of Table Rice; Stagnant Use in Animal Feed

    by Deborah Willenborg | Nov 15, 2016
    Finding other uses for table rice
    Young child playing with rice
    TOKYO, JAPAN -- In its latest report, the Foreign Agricultural Service post in Tokyo reports that with continued decline in Japanese table rice consumption, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) began subsidizing farmers to shift production from table rice to other crops.  For those farmers who have not reduced rice production, MAFF has had some success in encouraging increased production of rice for animal feed and use of paddy rice as silage.

    Per-capita rice consumption dropped one kilogram to 54.6 kilogram (120 pounds) in Japanese FY2015 (April 2015 – March 2016), and MAFF estimates that total table rice consumption dropped 160,000 MT to 6.96 million MT in MY2015/16 (Japan‘s marketing year for rice is November-October).  MAFF forecasts total table rice consumption will further decline by 30,000 MT to 6.92 million MT in MY2016/17.  About 1.1 million MT of rice was used for animal feed in MY2014/15, increasing rice’s utilization ratio in feed from 3.9 percent in MY2013/14 to 5 percent, at the expense of corn, sorghum, and wheat.

    MAFF further estimates that, based on the first nine months of MY2015/16, the utilization ratio of rice in animal feed will increase by only 0.1 percent to 5.1 percent, attributable to competitive prices for corn.  Accordingly, as feed consumption is not expected to offset the 160,000 MT decrease in table rice consumption, total rice consumption is expected to decline by 100,000 MT to 8.5 million MT in MY2015/16.

    Rice for feed use is forecast to remain flat in MY2016/17 as strong corn demand is expected to suppress any increases in feed rice consumption.  Consequently, total rice consumption is forecast to remain unchanged at 8.5 million MT in MY2016/17.

    Based on value, Japan is perennially the second largest export market for U.S. rice, however, that rice makes up a very small percentage of total Japanese domestic use. 
  • Japan Rice Trade Anticipates Higher Domestic Prices for Coming Marketing Year

    by Colleen Klem | Aug 23, 2016
    He's going to need Luigi's help, too

    TOKYO, JAPAN -- USA Rice staff are traveling in Japan this week and met with members of the Japanese rice trade where they discussed several factors in play that are likely to strengthen Japanese domestic rice prices this next crop year.

    First is the Japanese government's increasing diversion of rice production to animal feed which will impact reasonably-priced rice for foodservice use.  Additionally, the Japanese press reported last week that JA, the large national agricultural cooperative, will increase their prices to purchase rice from growers.  For instance, the price of Niigata Koshihikari will be 13,600 yen per 60kg (approximately $102/cwt brown basis), which is an increase of six percent compared to the previous year. 

    A second factor portending higher prices is the reported decrease in this year's domestic table rice production, forecast to be 7.35 million tons - 90,000 tons less than 2015.

    A third factor that could drive prices higher in Japan is weather.  Late summer and fall is typhoon season in the western Pacific.  As of July, the 2016 Japanese crop looks to be average in size, but the shortage of foodservice rice could be worsened by any adverse weather before harvest this fall. 

    "Higher domestic prices make imported U.S. rice more attractive to Japanese end-users," said USA Rice Vice President of International Promotion Jim Guinn.  "And since the foodservice industry is a primary user of U.S. rice that comes into Japan through the Simultaneous-Buy-Sell (SBS) system each year, importers are watching the rice market carefully as the FY2016 SBS tender process begins soon."
  • 19th Annual U.S.-Japan Rice Technical Meeting Held

    by Colleen Klem | Jun 24, 2016
    Technically speaking
    ITP-19th Annual U.S.-Japan Rice Technical Meeting Held-160624 

    SACRAMENTO, CA -- Representatives of the U.S. and Japanese rice industries met here Wednesday and Thursday for the 19th annual U.S.-Japan rice technical meeting. 

    “These annual meetings are an important part of strengthening the rice trade between our two countries by providing an opportunity to discuss and resolve technical issues,” said Alex Balafoutis of PGP International, Inc. and the U.S. chairman of the Japan Technical Group. 

    The two sides reviewed rice production, trade, and utilization in both countries, reviewed key upcoming supply and demand developments in both markets, and discussed quality characteristics of U.S. rice exported to Japan.

    Following a day-long session on Wednesday, Thursday saw the Japanese delegation tour a rice paddy with U.S. delegation member and farmer Michael Rue, who provided information on rice production, drying, and storage, followed by a mill tour of Farmers’ Rice Cooperative.

    “USA Rice also participates in technical meetings with Korea and Taiwan, however having 19 years of technical meetings with Japan has resulted in more transparency of trade between our countries by working together to rectify technical issues," concluded Balafoutis. 

    Japan imports about 325,000 metric tons of U.S. rice each year with a value of more than $275 million dollars, making it one of the largest markets for the United States.

    Both sides agreed that the 20th U.S.-Japan Rice Technical meeting will be held in Japan next year.

  • U.S. Rice “Cal-Bowl’ Demonstration Kick Starts Retail Campaign in Japan

    by Deborah Willenborg | Dec 01, 2015
    Dare we say "Yummy!"
    TOKYO, JAPAN – A popular Japanese food writer and recipe consultant known as “Yummy-san” recently conducted a cooking demonstration here using U.S. medium grain rice in the preparation of three dishes:  chicken, nuts, and berry salad; coconut shrimp spicy tomato soup; and almond milk rice pudding.  This consumer tasting event coincided with the start of a new USA Rice promotion at two hundred Kaldi import stores that will feature ingredients used in the three recipes, including U.S. medium grain rice.

    Attendees at the event, none of whom had tried U.S. rice before, got a chance to taste test the three dishes and, in a survey they filled out afterwards, 32 percent gave a “thumbs up” to U.S. medium grain rice saying it was completely different from Japanese rice.

    Chris Crutchfield, with American Commodity Company, was on hand at the tasting and said, “Yummy-san has been a big proponent of U.S.-grown rice for 15 years – ever since she participated in a Japanese delegation that toured the California rice industry in 2001.  She has a huge following here through her cooking blog, cookbooks, and cooking shows.  Her participation brings a lot of popularity to this promotion highlighting U.S. rice.”

  • Rice Traders on Japan's Kyushu Island Get a Taste of U.S. Rice

    by Colleen Klem | Sep 18, 2015
    U.S. rice: the talk of the table
     IP-Rice Traders on Japan’s Kyushu Island Get a Taste of US Rice-150918

    FUKUOKA, JAPAN -- U.S.-grown medium grain rice made its debut at a trade exhibition here last week and was a big hit with attendees when served in two menu items, "Rice, Nut & Fruit Salad" and "Gumbo Soup with Turmeric Rice."

    The trade show, sponsored by Nishihara Shokai, a national food wholesaler headquartered here, featured 220 booths and attracted more than 3,000 people, mainly food service-related traders located throughout Kyushu Island.

    "There was some initial concern that the U.S-grown rice dishes offered up would be 'too creative' for the Japanese market," said USA Rice Vice President International Promotion Jim Guinn. "But based on the volume of trade inquiries from hotels and restaurants, I'd say consumers here are more than ready for this product. And with a population of more than five million, Fukuoka is an important market for U.S. medium grain, not only because it is a hub of Kyushu Island, but also because national foodservice chains are strengthening their sales nationwide."

    Kyushu is the southernmost and third largest of Japan's main islands and is home to Mount Aso, Japan's most active volcano that rumbled to life earlier this week.

  • Japan Academics Meet with USA Rice to Discuss Crop Insurance, Farm Programs

    by Deborah Willenborg | Sep 16, 2015
    Intellectual exchange
    Japan Crop Insurance Mtg
    ARLINGTON, VA -- Farm policy academics from Ibaraki University and Okayama University met with USA Rice Vice President of Government Affairs Ben Mosely and COO Bob Cummings today to discuss current U.S. rice support policies, especially crop insurance.  

    Japan’s Prime Minister Abe is seeking to reform Japan’s rice sector in a bid to reduce costs and bring supply more in line with demand.  Current policies based on direct payments tied to area-restriction programs are not working, and Japan’s government is looking to implement a new insurance-based regime by 2018.  

    Mosely reviewed the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) insurance programs provided under the 2014 Farm Bill and explained new and existing crop insurance policies utilized by rice farmers.

    “It’s clear Japan intends to move away from direct payments, and their farm policy experts were interested in knowing about the U.S. experience following the elimination of direct payments,” said Mosely.  “We had a very informed exchange of views on the pros and cons of the various crop insurance options available to U.S. rice farmers and possible applications to Japan.”  

    USA Rice regularly hosts visiting agricultural specialists from Japan to discuss farm policy issues.
  • U.S. Rice and Wine in Japan – A Winning Combination

    by Colleen Klem | Aug 13, 2015
    Master at work
    Chef Ko

    TOKYO, JAPAN – Last week, USA Rice conducted the final competition at the 3rd annual U.S. Medium Grain Recipe Contest where eight professional chefs, selected out of 166 entrants, were vying to create the best dish pairing U.S.-grown medium grain rice with wine.

    First prize was awarded to Mr. Yo Ko of the Conrad Tokyo China Blue for his "Five Kinds of Dim Sum.”  Dim Sum are small dumplings that can be steamed or fried, and Chef Ko’s entry was enhanced with special sauces using sweet wine for the steamed dumplings and dry wine for the fried.  Second place was a tie between a red wine and rice terrine appetizer, and a risotto baked in a waffle maker.

    Bill Farmer, USA Rice director of Asia programs, and Rachael Nelson, director of the U.S. Embassy Agricultural Trade Office here, were on hand to present Chef Ko with the 300,000 yen ($2,500) grand prize, and the 50,000 yen ($400) prizes awarded to the two second place winners.

    “Through contests and activities like this we familiarize professional chefs with the attributes of U.S. medium grain rice,” said Farmer.  “It’s impressive to watch them create menus on-the-spot that will appeal to our target consumer audience in Japan.”

  • Mexican Dishes Bring U.S. Rice to Japanese Consumers

    by Colleen Klem | Aug 06, 2015
    Olé and kanpai!
    Japanese consumers sampling U.S. rice
    TOKYO, JAPAN – This week, USA Rice conducted a consumer event here in collaboration with Ryoritsushin, a popular food magazine. Approximately 60 Japanese consumers were introduced to U.S. medium grain at Toro Tokyo, celebrity chef Richard Sandoval’s hot Mexican and Latin American restaurant in the posh and exclusive Ginza District.

    The event featured a discussion led by the magazine about the new popularity of Mexican cuisine in Japan, followed by a presentation on U.S. rice including its growing environment, exports, and unique sustainability story.  Finally, Toro chef Ogawa explained to the crowd why U.S. medium grain works nicely for his Mexican menus, and that it is the only rice on the restaurant’s menu.  He then conducted a cooking demonstration of his "Mexican Egg," incorporating U.S. medium grain rice.

    Ms. Rachel Nelson, director of the U.S. Embassy Agricultural Trade Office here, offered a greeting and toast to the invited participants and partook of the many Mexican dishes, all of which were prepared with U.S.-grown rice.

    Attendees completed a questionnaire at the event’s conclusion that showed 95 percent of the participants were satisfied with the event and almost 98 percent thought the menus using U.S. medium grain tasted good. Ninety-five percent of the participants liked the texture of U.S. medium grain.  

    “Simple first-person promotional events such as this one create a long-remembered positive image for our rice that is passed on by word-of-mouth to many others,” said USA Rice’s Bill Farmer who attended the event.