USA Rice Honors FAS Alum Sunchul Choi with 2021 Rice Industry Award

Two men, one Korean & the other white, hold award plaque
Sunchul Choi (left) receives his award from Michael Rue
Jun 22, 2022
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA – This week, a delegation of U.S. rice exporters traveled here after a several year-hiatus to hold meetings with U.S. government and importers regarding U.S. rice supply and quality, and the potential outlook for 2022 U.S. exports to Korea.  Prior to COVID-19, USA Rice regularly coordinated in-person meetings with Korean industry and officials to ensure trade continued to flow smoothly.  

Korea is a top export market for all of U.S. rice by both volume and value, and has long been the number two market for U.S. medium grain exports, primarily from California.  In 2020, the U.S. and Korea signed a country-specific quota (CSQ) for U.S. rice, establishing an annual purchase commitment of 132,304 MT, in addition to annual technical discussions with industry and government to ensure the trade is mutually beneficial (see USA Rice Daily, November 19, 2019).

“This visit to see our important trading partners in Seoul and Naju was long overdue, it is difficult to explain just how critical it is to have face-to-face meetings,” said Michael Rue, California rice farmer and chair of the USA Rice Asia Trade Policy Subcommittee.  “In the challenging circumstances facing the world in logistics, and supply chains in particular, it is even more important to sit down together to have two-way discussions.”

During the trip, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) alumni, Sunchul Choi, was honored as the recipient of the USA Rice 2021 Rice Industry Award for his many contributions to trade success stories for U.S. agriculture during his distinguished 31-year career with FAS.  Mr. Choi played a major role in shepherding the agreement that resulted in the 2020 CSQ signing that provides significant market certainty for U.S. rice farmers and exporters.

Mr. Choi served under several agricultural counselors and U.S. ambassadors throughout his years at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul but provided a constant relationship as a locally-employed staff member to assist U.S. industry and resolve trade issues by working directly with Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation.

“While we would have liked to have presented this award to Mr. Choi last year upon his retirement, we thought it would be more impactful to wait until we could express in-person our sincere gratitude for his dedication to U.S. agriculture and the U.S. rice industry over the years,” said Rue.  “Our U.S. negotiators would all agree that Mr. Choi was an integral part of the CSQ discussions and that without his depth of knowledge and his relationships with Korean officials, the outcomes may not have been as successful for our industry.”

Since the CSQ was signed, Korea has been a strong partner and has fulfilled their annual commitments in both 2020 and 2021.  Given uncertainty in the market from the standpoint of supply, pricing, freight, and other factors, no U.S. rice has been contracted so far in 2022.