SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A historic agreement between the United States and China could have a dramatic impact on California’s rice industry.
“California’s specialty is medium and short grain sticky rice that is perfect for many things including sushi,” explained Jim Morris, a spokesperson for the California Rice Commission.
High-quality rice is wanted around the world. Much of it comes from Northern California.
“We’re the nation’s No. 2 rice producing state, producing about 20 percent a year,” said Morris.
But because of strict standards and legal hold ups, the U.S. has never been able to enter the Chinese market, which is massive.
In just a two-week period, the people in China eat nearly the same amount of rice that the entire United States produces.
An agreement announced this week opens a pathway for rice to flow to the far east.
“This was a milestone,” said Morris, “many years in the making.”
Jim Morris says the deal between the United States and China is a great step towards a profitable opportunity.
“Adding the world’s number one rice consuming country to the list would be terrific if it happens,” said Morris.
The move would have an economic ripple effect.
“Now we will have an opportunity to compete,” said Dan Sumner.
He is an agriculture economist with UC Davis. He says if the deal holds, the Sacramento region will reap the benefits.
“This will create jobs in the rice industry and the rice milling industry and probably the transportation industry,” said Sumner.
Farmers throughout the central valley are cautiously optimistic.
“It’s too early to tell what the overall impact will be,” said Michael Bosworth, an Olivehurst rice farmer.
Bosworth says California produces a good product that is coveted by high-end restaurants and China’s strong middle class.
“They’ll have more purchasing power for higher quality, very high-quality rice,” said Bosworth.
Morris says there are a few more hurdles before rice can begin being shipped across the Pacific. Chinese buyers will be inspecting mills and packaging sites over the next few months.
Morris says it’s possible California rice will be in China by the end of the year.