International Trade Missions Intersect in Mid-South Rice Country

‬Kennedy Rice Mill, overhead photo of people leaning in to inspect rice held in worker
At the mill
Oct 07, 2019
LAKE CHARLES, LA & LITTLE ROCK, AR -- Last month USA Rice embarked on two reverse trade missions conducted simultaneously that hosted 10 Colombian and 12 Central American delegates through Arkansas and Louisiana rice country.  The purpose of this trade mission was to provide delegates working knowledge of the Identity Preserved (IP) and fortified rice varieties and capabilities in the United States.  
“This trade mission was the first of its kind for USA Rice, and required an advance team on the ground in both states to facilitate its successful execution,” said Bobby Hanks, Louisiana rice miller and chair of the USA Rice International Trade Policy Committee.  “The groups traveled overland more than 1,100 miles, stopping at specific locations along the way including, farms, mills, ports, and research stations, where they had in-depth conversations with rice industry experts, all working to provide a comprehensive look at IP and fortified rice.”
The delegations were comprised of some of the largest importers and millers of U.S. rice in Central America and Colombia.  Taken together as a region, Central American imports in 2018 accounted for more than 500,000 MT.  Colombia imported nearly 150,000 MT of U.S.-grown rice in the same year.  
The Central American delegation, led by USA Rice Director of Field Services Kane Webb, began their journey in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and headed north towards Memphis, Tennessee.  The Colombian delegation followed the same route in exactly the opposite direction, led by Josh Hankins, USA Rice Rice Stewardship Partnership coordinator, and Asiha Grigsby, manager of international promotion.  
Both groups intersected at the Whitaker family’s Trinity Land partnership, a fifth generation family-owned farm located in McGehee, Arkansas.  The Whitakers showed unbridled southern hospitality by allowing each delegate to ride along on combines, grain carts, and tractors to have the privilege of harvesting a section of the 2019 rice crop.  
“Every host along the route went well above the call of duty to make the reverse trade missions an overwhelming success,” said Hanks.  “Each delegate that participated in the trip gave their sincere thanks for the experiences that were shared and several have already pursued purchases of U.S. rice.”