• Trump Trade Team Locked and Loaded with Lighthizer

    by Michael Klein | May 12, 2017
    He knows Mexico is #1 for rice
    ITP-Trump Trade Team Locked and Loaded with Lighthizer-170512

    President Trump’s trade team was rounded out yesterday when the man at the top, Robert Lighthizer, was finally confirmed by the U.S. Senate to become the U.S. Trade Representative.

    Ambassador Lighthizer hits the ground running with a long list of To-Do items, perhaps most notably overseeing the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a process that could get underway as early as next week with a formal notification to Congress of his intent to reopen the sprawling deal.

    Lighthizer’s views on free trade and agriculture that emerged during his confirmation process did much to reassure the ag sector, upset by what many perceived as reckless rhetoric on trade coming out of the White House.

    When asked if the needs of farmers and ranchers could be protected during any tinkering with  NAFTA, Lighthizer responded: “I do believe it can be done. I’m not suggesting that it will be easy, but I do believe it can be done.”

    “We welcome Ambassador Lighthizer to his new position and trust that any renegotiation of NAFTA will adhere to the guiding principle of ‘First do no harm,’” said Betsy Ward, President and CEO of USA Rice.  “Mexico remains our top export market and Canada our fourth.  That is because of NAFTA, not in spite of it.”

    Other issues awaiting Lighthizer include a 100 day trade program with China that, at this time, does not look to include U.S. rice, a possible opening up of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement from which rice was excluded in 2007, and a stepped up emphasis on enforcement of existing trade deals and rooting out bad actors as emphasized by President Trump on the campaign trail and since.

  • Week of Meetings Reinforces Relationship Between U.S. and Mexican Rice Industries

    by Deborah Willenborg | Apr 28, 2017
    MRC President Pedro Schettino and
    USA Rice Chairman Brian King
    ITP.w-Pedro-Schettino-& B.-King-170428
    MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – A delegation of U.S. rice industry leaders has wrapped up a series of successful meetings here with all segments of the Mexican rice industry against the backdrop of heightened tension and uncertainty for the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a treaty both industries adamantly support.

    The 12-member USA Rice delegation, led by USA Rice Chairman Brian King and President & CEO Betsy Ward, began the week with a briefing by U.S. Embassy officials, followed by a meeting with the Mexican Rice Council (MRC), the most important and influential producer and miller organization in Mexico.  

    Discussions centered around the impact of the Mexican government’s move to drop tariffs to zero for countries with which Mexico does not currently have a free trade agreement; the need for a coordinated approach to any renegotiation or “modernizing” of NAFTA; and the current crop situation in both Mexico and the United States.

    While most Asian rices do not enjoy the quality, safety, or consumer acceptance that U.S. rice does, the tariff issue is seen by both the U.S. and Mexican industries as potentially paving the way for greater imports from Asian exporters who already heavily subsidize their domestic rice industries.

    The delegation heard time and again how NAFTA has helped U.S. rice compete, and how the U.S. and Mexican industries must continue to make the case with their respective governments about the benefits of NAFTA that far outweigh any disruption in trade that withdrawal or significant modernization could bring.

    “Mexico takes 20 percent of all U.S. rice exports – 16 percent of all U.S. long grain rice – and that is because of NAFTA, not in spite of it,” explained King.  “We are grateful to have been able to meet with so many of our valued customers here and we heard them loud and clear and agree: ‘NAFTA works!’”

    "The direct and positive impact that NAFTA has had on U.S. rice exports and on jobs and prosperity in Mexico and the United States must be continually emphasized,” said Ward.  “We will be working together to preserve the benefits of NAFTA for the U.S. rice industry, as well as for our Mexican partners.”  

    The delegation also met with key Mexican rice millers, packers, distributors, and traders to express appreciation for the business relationships that have been developed over many years with Mexico.   

    “Strong promotion of increased rice consumption in Mexico supports the objectives of both USA Rice and the Mexican Rice Council, and cooperation on promotion will be strengthened as a result of these meetings,” said John Owen, Louisiana rice farmer and chair of the Louisiana Rice Promotion Board, who attended the meetings.

    “The theme of common goals for our industries was reiterated in every meeting,” said Todd Burich, chair of the USA Rice Trade Policy Subcommittee for Latin America.  “We accomplished a great deal here this week and I think we all head home with a greater appreciation for just how interdependent we are, how committed to free and open trade between our countries we are, and how we will work with our respective governments to effectively convey those truths.”
  • USA Rice, Mexican Rice Council: Leave NAFTA Alone!

    by Deborah Willenborg | Apr 27, 2017
    In agreement:  #HaftaNAFTA
    MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – The two national organizations representing their respective rice industries in the United States and Mexico agree that any renegotiation of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) could have serious consequences for the stable and consistent rice trade that has created jobs and benefitted consumers and farmers on both sides of the border.
    During high level meetings here this week, USA Rice and the Mexican Rice Council recognized the mutual benefits achieved through free trade that support the viability of U.S. farmers and guarantees a safe, consistent, and affordable staple food product for Mexican consumers.
    The 12-person USA Rice delegation met with all segments of the Mexican rice industry, including, Mexican Rice Council, farmers, millers, importers, and distributors, and there was consensus that the goals of the industries are similar – keep the market free and open and increase consumption of rice in Mexico.  
    Mexico remains the number one rice export market in value and volume, accounting for 20 percent of all U.S. rice exports and more than 16 percent of total U.S. long grain rice production.
    USA Rice has worked for decades developing the Mexican market, and NAFTA has been central to market growth.  Changing NAFTA threatens to disrupt this most important market and opens the door for rice imports from countries that heavily subsidize their rice industries, like Viet Nam.
    “There’s a lot at stake here and if NAFTA goes away, we lose.  Plain and simple,” said Brian King, USA Rice Chairman and the delegation leader.  “The reality is, we need the Mexican market more than they need us.  They’ll get their rice, one way or another.  I’m interested in making certain it’s coming from the United States.”
    “We’re sending a united message to President Trump that withdrawal from NAFTA, or significant revisions, would likely hurt everyone involved – particularly the rural, agricultural-based communities that quite frankly, are the ones that made him President,” said Betsy Ward, USA Rice President & CEO.
    Ward added that USA Rice and the Mexican Rice Council also agreed on the importance of continuing the education process for their respective governments on the win-win that is NAFTA, rice trade between the countries, and the critical need to keep markets open.
  • USA Rice Delegation Meets with Mexican Rice Council, Kicking Off Week of Meetings

    by Deborah Willenborg | Apr 24, 2017
    #1 in volume and value
    MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – Amidst heightened rhetoric from the White House about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a USA Rice delegation of growers, millers, merchants, and exporters is meeting with officials and customers here to reassure them of the U.S. industry’s commitment to the number-one market for U.S.-grown rice in the world.

    The 12-member delegation is being led by USA Rice Chair Brian King and USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward, and is holding meetings with the Mexican Rice Council (MRC), the leading organization representing Mexican producers and millers, as well as with importers, wholesalers, distributors, and Mexican brand representatives.

    “We are pleased and honored to have this opportunity to demonstrate our strong commitment to our loyal customers in Mexico who purchase the lion’s share of our exports,” said King.  “For many years, Mexico has been our top market both in terms of volume and value, and we want to keep it that way.”  

    Delegation members will review and analyze current promotion programs, and meet with customers and U.S. government officials to discuss opportunities to expand U.S. rice sales here.  Additionally, the USA Rice group will seek to allay Mexican concerns over difficult trade issues, including the future of NAFTA.

    Ward plans to tell her counterpart at MRC, “Make no mistake, to us, NAFTA has been a success on both sides, and we have been steadfastly communicating this to the Trump Administration – ‘update what you need to, but do no harm to what works.’”  

    “I’m looking forward to a week of very productive meetings,” said Louisiana rice farmer John Owen, who is a part of the delegation.  “It’s important that we enhance and build on the strong customer relationships we have here, and I’d like to come away from this week with a mutual understanding that the U.S. and Mexican rice industries are in this together.”

    Mexico is currently the top destination for U.S. rice, with 825,000 metric tons heading here in 2016.  The United States enjoys an almost 90 percent market share, but Ward said trade between the countries could easily become disrupted as the countries trade barbs over various issues.

    “We do not want to become a casualty of a broader trade war,” Ward said. 

  • USA Rice Newsletter in Mexico Gets a Tech Update

    by Deborah Willenborg | Apr 19, 2017
    Spring edition
    MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – Last month, the USA Rice NotiArroz newsletter was revamped to be completely interactive and up-to-date with current electronic trends.  The new format allows the newsletter to be shared with a link that opens into the online “flipbook” format.  
    The newsletter continues to provide specialized rice articles and content that readers love, and now most elements of the newsletter are clickable, allowing easy access to USA Rice websites and social media.  The popular fast rice recipe videos also can be played directly within the newsletter, making the new NotiArroz a highly engaging multimedia experience.

    The latest newsletter is dedicated to spring and the upcoming “Children’s Day,” very popular in Mexico, with articles of special interest to parents on the nutritional benefits of rice for children and special rice recipes families can prepare at home, including kid-approved favorites.  

    “USA Rice uses the newsletter as a tool to encourage the foodservice sector to participate in USA Rice promotional activities and to help bolster U.S. rice consumption in Mexico,” said USA Rice Vice President International Hugh Maginnis.  “The electronic version is sent to more than 800 contacts and is uploaded to the website and social media accounts.  Consumers can also find all Notiarroz editions on our website.”

  • U.S. Rice Deliveries to Mexico Surge in 2017 – Both Paddy and Milled Rice Show Significant Gains

    by Deborah Willenborg | Mar 24, 2017
    Clear the bins for U.S. rice
    IMX-Sales-Numbers-Up, rice bins
    MEXICO CITY, MEXICO -- According to official Mexican government data, total U.S. rice deliveries (non-converted) to Mexico were up a staggering 31.4 percent in the first two-months of 2017 compared with the same period the previous year.  That’s 148,016 MT, and of significant note, milled rice exports nearly tripled – to 22,478 metric tons, nearly half of total milled exports in all of 2016.
    Paddy arrivals were up 25 percent as local milling demand increased, not only for local consumption but also due to additional Mexican milled rice export sales to Venezuela.

    U.S. milled rice shipments were up 183 percent and market share up to 63.3 percent, compared with a market share of just 22.4 percent in the same period in 2016.

    Total Mexican rice imports were up 17.1 percent in this period, and the U.S. total market share for all types of rice reached 93.1 percent, the best since 2013.

    “Two months do not a trend make, but it’s very good news,” said USA Rice Vice President International Hugh Maginnis.  “USA Rice continues our aggressive promotion programs in this key market and the U.S. rice industry is very grateful for Mexico’s continued loyalty as our number one export customer.  Mexico is a valued trading partner, and we are heartened that our southern neighbors continue to place their trust in the quality and reliability that U.S. rice exporters provide.”
  • Mexico May Move Forward with Viet Nam Trade Deal

    by Michael Klein | Feb 02, 2017
    Let's talk this through

    MEXICO CITY, MEXICO -- According to press reports, the government of Mexico (GOM) may move forward with implementing individual bi-lateral trade deals with many of the countries that participated in the now defunct Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  These countries include Australia, Brunei, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam.

    “The President has given me instructions to convert the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreements into bi-lateral agreements with all of the countries with whom we do not already have free trade agreements,” said Secretary of the Economy Ildefonso Guajardo.

    Of these countries, the most sensitive to U.S. rice interests is Viet Nam, an unfairly low cost producer of long grain milled rice, and one from whom Mexico has imported rice in the past.  Currently the Mexican import duty is 20 percent, but whether immediately phased out, or eliminated over time, its removal will give the Asian producer a huge advantage in Mexico.  This past year, Viet Nam exported less than 5,000 MT of rice to Mexico; however when Mexico did not have a 20 percent duty (as in 2014), they exported nearly 70,000 MT.

    “This news, along with the talk about renegotiating all or parts of NAFTA, is creating a great deal of uncertainty,” said Brian King, chairman of USA Rice and of USA Rice’s Western Hemisphere Promotion Subcommittee.  “To date nothing has changed or been affected, but the market is nervous as to what might happen in the future, and Mexico is the largest market for U.S. rice.  We are in touch with the U.S. Embassy there and trade partners to get the very latest as this story develops, but I can tell you that anything that disrupts trade between the U.S. and Mexico gives the rice industry pause."

    At 85 percent market share, the U.S. is the major supplier of rice to Mexico and Mexico is the largest market for U.S. rice taking some 800,000 ​MT valued at $260 million.  Most of the rice exported is in rough form, but there is strong and growing demand for direct imports of long grain milled rice.

  • Inaccurate Reporting Raises Unsubstantiated Concern for U.S. Rice in Mexico

    by Colleen Klem | Jun 09, 2016
    Price check aisle 2
     IP-Inaccurate Reporting Raises Unsubstantiated Concern for US Rice-160609 TWO

    MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - There was a story today online that Mexico had reduced tariffs to zero for all types and forms or rice regardless of origin.  This story was inaccurate.

    When the Secretariat of Economy re-imposed duties on Asian origin rice in December 2014, the government of Mexico reserved the right to set up a global tariff rate quota system (TRQ) for basic food products, including rice.   

    A Presidential decree posted in the official newspaper of the government of Mexico, Diario Oficial, indicated a TRQ would be established for rice and several other food products at a zero tariff to counter price spikes or supply issues related to those commodities.

    This gives the Mexican government the flexibility to allow duty free access of imports under a TRQ system, should they decide at some future date that high rice prices require such action. 

    This decree, however, is just the first step in a process of establishing the TRQ.  The next step is actually fleshing out the TRQ mechanism that must also be submitted to the Federal Regulatory Improvement Commission (COFEMER) before being published for public comment in the Diario Oficial explaining in full how the TRQ would operate.  This process takes time. 

    The third step is actual imposition of the TRQ which would be up to the government of Mexico and would only be utilized in situations where the availability or access to such products is inadequate, to ensure sufficient supplies of affected commodities in the market. 

    U.S. rice and South American origins already enter the market duty free.  USA rice, with the help of colleague at the Mexican Rice Council and the U.S. Embassy here will continue to monitor the situation.
  • Rice Wednesday is Back in Mexico

    by Colleen Klem | Jun 07, 2016
    If it's Wednesday, it must be U.S.-grown rice
    Rice Wednesday is Back in Mexico 

    MEXICO CITY, MEXICO -- The popular USA Rice "Rice Wednesday" promotion is underway here at La Chilanguita, a chain with 11 restaurants in high traffic areas in Mexico City and Mexico State, including its most popular location, Masaryk, the most exclusive area in Mexico City. The promotion will run from June through December although tabletop displays have been informing customers since May about the four U.S. rice dishes available. 

    Patrons of La Chilanguita can choose Arroz a La Tumbada (a dish from Veracruz combining rice and seafood), Arroz Frito (fried rice), Morisqueta (a spicy rice dish from Michoacán) and paella.  The restaurant reports the most popular rice dish, generating many repeat visits, is the USA Rice paella.   So popular, in fact, the managers of several locations have chosen to serve the paellas with U.S.-grown rice on Sundays as well. 

    Angel Donovan, Executive Chef of La Chilanguita, enjoys working with U.S.-grown rice. He included a popular rice ceviche from his restaurant in the USA Rice "Great Chefs" cookbook in 2014 and has appeared on the Arroz Gourmet TV Shows.

    "Since the promotion started, it has inspired me to create new rice dishes to include in the daily suggestions, and the most popular options will become a staple on the menu," Donovan said.

    Each month, La Chilanguita purchases nearly 1,500 pounds of U.S. long grain and parboiled rice from Schettino, one of the largest millers/packers in Mexico. 

  • Mexico Trade Stoppage Averted

    by Lee Brinckley | Jan 04, 2016
    Thru traffic again
    MEXICALI, MEXICO -- On December 14, 2015, USA Rice was notified that U.S. rice exporters were having their bagged rice shipments blocked by Mexican authorities here at this important west coast crossing point with Calexico, California.  The Government of Mexico (GOM) had, overnight, changed inspection regulations on how railroads and GOM phytosanitary inspection officials cleared bagged commodities, resulting in a stoppage of bagged rice exports.

    Mexico is the largest export market for U.S. rice, taking 20 percent of the volume worldwide and with a total 2015 value estimated at more than $300 million.  The new GOM regulations specifically targeted bagged product with an estimated 2015 market value of more than $100 million.

    Those familiar with the situation informed USA Rice that the GOM’s well-meaning new regulation was untenable and would literally close that border for months and, if implemented across all border points, would stop all bagged U.S. rice exports to Mexico until decision makers at SENASICA (Mexico’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) equivalent) could be reached to review the regulation.  

    Although most GOM administrative offices were officially closed for the December holidays, Marvin Lehrer, USA Rice’s representative in Mexico, immediately took action to mitigate the urgent trade problem.  

    Within days, exporters informed USA Rice that the GOM had rescinded the new regulations and bagged commodity flow would continue as normal.  Lehrer continues to serve as the point person and in-country liaison doing follow-up on the recent resolution to lift restrictions on the entry of U.S. rice into Mexico.  

    He said, “A key element of the success was the very personal and trusting relationship USA Rice has built up with key elements of the Mexican trade.  This strong association allowed a free flow of information and the enlisting of the trade as allies in providing correct information for the GOM to help resolve the issue.”
  • USA Rice Publishes Student Chef Cookbook in Mexico

    by Deborah Willenborg | Nov 24, 2015
    Restaurant-quality rice recipes
    MEXICO CITY, MEXICO -- This month, USA Rice released a special edition cookbook featuring student chefs who have participated in USA Rice competitions.  The deluxe full-color "Future Chefs Cooking with Rice" cookbook is in a magazine format and includes 43 recipes using U.S.-grown rice as the main ingredient.  Along with restaurant-quality recipes of contemporary Mexican cuisine, international dishes, desserts, and more avant-garde cuisine, there is an information section that includes rice cooking techniques, rice varieties, nutritional information, creative plating and molding, informative graphics, and invitations to USA Rice’s Spanish language websites and social media.

    “The dishes demonstrate the wide range of possibilities rice offers in the food service industry and share upscale ideas that foodies and readers of the magazine can prepare at home,” said Leticia Escobar, the editor of the publishing company that produced the book.

    The special edition cookbook is being sold online, at newspaper stands nationwide, and at Sanborns, a major department store chain with more than 100 restaurants in Mexico City and the Metropolitan area frequented by approximately one million customers each month.

    These special edition magazines are very popular in Mexico and are considered luxury collector's items.  USA Rice published 50,000 copies of the 50-page cookbook magazine targeting home cooks who enjoy preparing traditional and contemporary rice dishes as well as the food service industry.
  • Mexico to Eliminate Rice Import Duties Under TPP

    by Colleen Klem | Nov 06, 2015
    TPP Under a Microscope
     TPP Under a Microscope

    ARLINGTON, VA - Yesterday's release of the Trans Pacific Partnership text confirms what many have speculated - Mexico has agreed to eliminate all tariffs on rice imports from other TPP partners.  The United States already enjoys duty-free access for rice into Mexico because of the North America Free Trade Agreement, so the largest beneficiary of this move is Vietnam. 

    Mexico has agreed to eliminate all import duties on rice except for milled rice on the day the TPP agreement enters into force.  Milled rice duties will decline from the current 20 percent by 2 percentage points each year for 10 years.  This reduction will begin after entry into force which is unlikely to occur until 2017 at the earliest.

    "We faced an uphill battle in Mexico because it was evident that Mexico's government intended to liberalize rice trade with its TPP partners," said USA Rice COO Bob Cummings.  "The major threat is in milled rice and USA Rice worked closely with the Mexican Rice Council to preserve the U.S. rice market in Mexico."

    "Thank you to USA Rice for the support which it has given to us," said Ricardo Mendoza, Executive Director, Mexican Rice Council in an email to USA Rice confirming Mexico's new duty structure. "We will be following closely the approval process [in the TPP countries]."  

    Mexico is the number one export market for U.S. rice.  Paddy rice dominates U.S. exports and Mexico's imports.  However, the share of milled rice imports is on the rise, including from the United States, and Vietnam is likely to be a key competitor for the United States going forward.

  • USA Rice and Partners in Mexico Refine Promotions

    by Colleen Klem | Nov 02, 2015
    Gluten free in any language
    IP-USA Rice and Partners in Mexico Refine Promotions-151102 

    MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – Last week, USA Rice conducted its second annual Advisory Board meeting with 30 participants and partners to discuss USA Rice activities in Mexico and ideas for successful future implementation.   Participants included representatives of the rice trade, supermarket chains, press, publishing companies, restaurants, culinary schools, private organizations, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Trade Office in Mexico City.

    “USA Rice does a lot for our institutions,” said Marco Mendez, chef at the Dijon Culinary School.  “We stand ready to help promote U.S.-grown rice in the foodservice sector, so these planning sessions are quite helpful.”

    USA Rice has worked with more than 70 culinary schools over the past several years as a means of strategically building a network of U.S. rice ambassadors.  Many of the students who had previously participated in USA Rice activities are now in decision-making positions in other culinary schools, restaurants, and hotels throughout Mexico and are continuing to promote rice in their sector.

    During the meeting, USA Rice also shared two recently produced promotional videos that are online and available for partners to use.  The first, “Arroz Saludable” (“Healthy Rice”), discusses the nutritional benefits of rice and clarifies negative myths about rice, including that rice is fattening and not nutritious.  The second video is venturing into a new area here – gluten free.  “Arroz Libre Gluten” (“Rice is Gluten Free”) explains the little understood conditions of gluten allergies and celiac disease.

    “Everyone appreciated the concise, informative nature of the videos and requested copies to have at their institutions,” said Gaby Carbajal, the USA Rice contractor in Mexico, who attended the meeting.  “There was also interest in creating new materials and posters about gluten free living to be displayed in the rice aisle at supermarkets, and USA Rice has committed to developing these materials.” 

    Carbajal added, “We got a lot of good feedback at this meeting on the effectiveness of our promotions program.  It’s a great way to connect with stakeholders and share up-to-date information, and we plan to continue to hold these meetings on an annual basis.”

  • Rice Chef of the Year – Mexico City

    by Deborah Willenborg | Oct 23, 2015
    U.S. rice wins every time
    Rice-Chef-of-the-Year,-Mexico 2015
    MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – This week, USA Rice hosted the 15th “Rice Chef of the Year” rice cooking contest at the Colegio Superior de Gastronomia, the first culinary institution in Latin America, with the participation of 21 professional chefs representing restaurants, hotels, banquet halls, and culinary institutions.  The winners received generous prizes from the sponsors:  La Vasconia, Bon Chef, Vinos Torres, Chocolates Lindt, Herdez, Simplot, and Editorial Mango.

    Participating chefs prepared a variety of culinary delights, using rice as the primary ingredient.  The panel of judges, composed of top gastronomic personalities, rated the dishes on proper cooking techniques, use of rice, taste, and presentation.

    The winning recipe, Rice Delight Dessert, was the creation of Chef Jorge Israel Lopez Ruiz with the Presidente Intercontinental Hotel, and will be an exclusive offering on the hotel’s restaurant menu.  Chef Ruiz said, “My inspiration in preparing this dish was to show the great versatility of rice and to demonstrate that this significant ingredient can be used in a wide range of presentations, not solely as a side dish or in a simple way.”

    Press and bloggers present at the event live tweeted and uploaded photos to social media using the hashtag #usaricemexico, and the “Rice Chef of the Year” contest will be featured on local television.

    "The purpose of the ‘Rice Chef of the Year’ competition is to increase the consumption of rice in Mexico, and boost its use in the food-service industry," said Gaby Carbajal, director of promotions for USA Rice in Mexico.  "Every year the chefs surprise us with their creativity, and, above all, with their expertise in using rice as a main ingredient.  We have seen a ripple effect from the USA Rice contest as restaurant chefs have begun to experiment with rice, incorporating it in different ways in their restaurant menus."
  • U.S. Rice Takes Center Stage at Food Service Show in Mexico

    by Deborah Willenborg | Oct 20, 2015
    At the USA Rice workshop with
    Chef Alejandro Espinosa (in black)
    Trade Show in Puerto Vallarta
    PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO – Earlier this month, USA Rice was a sponsor of Vallarta-Nayarit Gastronomica, a premier trade show here that attracts gastronomic personalities from all over Mexico as well as top international chefs.  These food service professionals gather to participate in live cooking shows and specialized workshops, and to propose culinary innovations for their peers at culinary institutions throughout Mexico.

    Many of the chefs used U.S. rice during their cooking demonstrations before a foodservice audience of more than 1,200.  Chef Jorge Jurado from Panama used U.S. parboiled rice as the main ingredient in the dishes he prepared on stage as well as in the Panama booth in the exhibition area of the event.  Two renowned Spanish chefs, Michelin Star Chef Kisko Garcia, and Chef Eva Millán, discussed the importance of using U.S. rice in restaurants and hotels citing its versatility.  

    USA Rice offered specialized rice workshops conducted by Chef Alejandro Espinosa who has vast experience cooking rice in some of the top restaurants and hotels around the world.

    "Rice is extremely versatile and has great profit margins for a variety of dishes," said Chef Espinosa.  "We prefer parboiled rice in the foodservice sector and are very supportive of the use of the Authentic American seal to signal the high quality of the product.”

    USA Rice regularly participates in trade shows throughout Mexico to showcase U.S. rice to a wider audience, gather new trade contacts, and learn about new food trends.

  • USA Rice to Sponsor Premier Culinary Event in Mexico Next Month

    by Deborah Willenborg | Sep 09, 2015
    Camera ready rice
    MEXICO CITY, MEXICO -- Last week, USA Rice participated in a press conference announcing the upcoming Vallarta-Nayarit Gastronomica, the premier gastronomic event and trade show in Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit, from October 4-7.  USA Rice is a sponsor of this important culinary event that targets the professional food service industry, and will offer specialized rice workshops in addition to exhibiting at the trade show.

    Sixty members of the press and 80 special guests attended the press conference at the Spanish Embassy here.  The media received specialized press kits containing USA Rice cookbooks, information about U.S.-grown rice, and a wide range of brochures and invitations to future USA Rice events.

    At the press event USA Rice displayed several gourmet rice dishes, including a variety of sushi, California rolls, coconut rice with white chocolate liquor, and an upscale healthy rice salad.  In addition, a winner from a local USA Rice student chef competition prepared her winning dish, Rice Cheesecake.

    “Our booth drew a lot of attention,” said Gaby Carbajal who manages USA Rice’s promotions programs in Mexico.  “The media was very engaged with our delicious presentation, took lots of photographs and video, and requested more information.  There was a lot of ‘buzz’ around next month’s trade show and it promises to be a great opportunity for USA Rice to make key contacts in the media and the professional food service industry.”

    U.S.-grown rice enjoys an excellent reputation in Mexico (see previous story), and the country remains the top destination for U.S. rice exports.
  • Mexican Imports of U.S. Milled Rice on Rise - Packers Returning to U.S. Origin

    by Deborah Willenborg | Sep 08, 2015
    U.S. rice back on top
    MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – One of the top rice packers in Mexico is beginning to shift purchases back to U.S. rice from Uruguay and other origins thanks to better prices, logistics, and quality.

    “The packer has a premium brand that can command a top price.  Back in 2011, they shifted almost exclusively to Uruguayan milled rice,” said Marvin Lehrer, USA Rice’s representative in the region.  “Recently, a large price spread between Uruguay and the U.S. has shifted origin preference back to the United States.”

    The packer notes that he prefers to buy from the U.S. because of logistic advantages and is seeking higher quality U.S. rice.  The shift from Uruguayan origin back to the U.S. is expected to be gradual but steady.

    “We are also hearing from the trade that there has been consumer rejection of Vietnamese rice, especially from supermarket buyers,” Lehrer continued.  “We're told that supermarkets and, in turn, packers are getting returns of Viet rice due to ‘stickiness,’ and other quality concerns by consumers.”

    The U.S. already enjoys a significant quality, logistic, and name recognition advantage in Mexico, especially against Asia.  The latest problems for rice from Vietnam could push the origin to bottom end, non-branded segment of the market, where Lehrer says they could gain a foothold.  However, he says U.S. milled rice usage, especially properly promoted, will lead in Mexico for years to come.

    Mexican imports of rice are still dominated by paddy rice, but a shift has been taking place.  Paddy, once 95 percent of imports, now make up about 75 percent, with milled rice making up the remaining 25 percent.  

    “We're paying attention to both segments, and we are supporting the local trade in both paddy and milled rice - just so long as the origin is the United States,” says Jim Guinn, vice president of USA Rice’s international promotion programs.

  • Mexico Market Takes a Positive Turn

    by Deborah Willenborg | Aug 19, 2015
    In-store demo draws a crowd
    MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – For the first time in four years the market share for U.S. rice in Mexico is on the upswing.  The United States is the sole supplier of paddy rice to Mexico and typically 40 percent of U.S. paddy exports are destined to this market.  In 2010, 92 percent of the rice Mexico imported was paddy; by 2014, that number had fallen to 69 percent.  But in the first five months of this year, the trend has reversed and 75 percent of Mexico’s imports were U.S. paddy rice.

    Similarly, U.S. milled rice exports to Mexico have skyrocketed, increasing more than 100 percent in the first six months of this year compared with the first six months of 2014.  The U.S. market share for milled rice was 97 percent in 2010 and fell to a low of 35 percent in 2014.  In the first six months of 2015, the market share has rebounded to 62 percent, mostly due to the 20 percent duty imposed on rice imports from Vietnam and Thailand.

    Notwithstanding the potential outcome of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, the outlook for U.S. sales remains positive, given the improved U.S. rice quality and narrowed price differences between U.S. and Asian origin rice.  The Trans Pacific Partnership deal could potentially lower tariffs into Mexico for rice from Asian origins which is all the more reason USA Rice continues its robust marketing activities that have helped change consumption habits and now are focusing on differentiating U.S. grown rice from other foreign rice.

    “Over the past 15 years of USA Rice promotional activities, rice consumption has grown 43 percent while population has grown only 22 percent,” says Jim Guinn.  “In just this year alone, USA Rice will conduct more than 300 promotional activities in Mexico targeting both the consumer and foodservice sectors.”  

    Guinn says activities focus on the newly developed “Authentic American Seal” which is used throughout all USA Rice promotional activities.  This logo highlights to the consumer what U.S. rice represents and which rice products on store shelves are from the United States.  USA Rice uses other messages as well that we know resonate strongly with Mexican consumers – health, versatility, economics, food safety, and gluten free.
  • USA Rice Briefs Grand Prairie Region Rice Farmers on Export Opportunities and Challenges

    by Colleen Klem | Aug 07, 2015

    Marvin LehrerLehrer leading a retail tour in Mexico in 2013

    STUTTGART, ARKANSAS – This week USA Rice’s Marvin Lehrer was the principal speaker at the annual RiceTec appreciation dinner held here at the Grand Prairie Center.  Nearly ninety local rice farmers attended the event to hear about the opportunities and challenges in moving rice to the key nearby markets of Mexico, Cuba, Central America, and Colombia.

    “Mexico remains the top market for U.S.-grown rice, but we need to focus on promoting U.S. rice as s a high quality, consistent, and safe product to ensure we hold on to our market share,” Lehrer said.

    Lehrer turned his attention to Cuba, an exciting market he knows well.

    “The Cuban market will take some time, but all the signs from Havana and Washington point to changes over the next several years that will result in U.S. rice again appearing in Cuban homes,” he said.  “USA Rice, bolstered by support from the industry, continues to lead efforts in that direction.”

    Discussing other markets in the region, Lehrer stated, “Colombia is a resounding success story and a great example of how well-executed trade agreements can create new, vibrant markets for us.”

    “We appreciate USA Rice’s strong efforts in opening markets, promoting our product and being with us to inform farmers of developments in the key export markets,” said Wes Long, District Sales Manager, RiceTec.

  • Rice Wednesday is Back in Mexico

    by User Not Found | Jul 21, 2015
    If it's Wednesday, it's U.S.-grown rice!
     Rice Wednesday is Back in Mexico
    MEXICO CITY, MEXICO -- The popular USA Rice "Rice Wednesday" promotion is underway here at La Chilanguita, a chain with 11 restaurants in high traffic areas in Mexico City and Mexico State, including its most popular location, Masaryk, the most exclusive area in Mexico City.  The promotion began last month and runs through December.  
    Patrons of La Chilanguita can choose between four rice entrees: Arroz a La Tumbada (a dish from Veracruz combining rice and seafood), Arroz Frito (fried rice), Morisqueta (a spicy rice dish from Michoacán) and paella.  The restaurant reports the most popular rice dish, generating many repeat visits, is the USA Rice paella.  So popular, in fact, the managers of several locations have chosen to serve the paellas with U.S.-grown rice on Sundays as well.  
    Angel Donovan, Executive Chef of La Chilanguita, enjoys working with U.S.-grown rice. He included a popular rice ceviche from his restaurant in the USA Rice "Great Chefs" cookbook in 2014 and has appeared on the Arroz Gourmet TV Shows.
    "Since the promotion started, it has inspired me to create new rice dishes to include in the daily suggestions, and the most popular options will become a staple on the menu," Donovan said.
    La Chilanguita purchases nearly 1,500 pounds a month of U.S. long grain and parboiled rice from Schettino, one of the largest millers/packers in Mexico.