Rice is one of the most widely consumed commodities in the world and is the most consumed commodity for half of the world’s population.  The U.S. provides milled or parboiled long and medium grain rice for our U.S. government (USG) food assistance programs.

Anywhere from 3-5% of U.S. rice exports are in the form of food aid, providing a safe and nutritious food for vulnerable or at-risk populations.

Image of people picking up bags of U.S. rice from food aid shipment
USA Rice Action:
  • Working with USDA, USAID and PVOs to encourage the use of fortified rice in appropriate food aid programs.
  • Ensuring that in-kind commodities, such as rice, remain in the USG toolbox.
Nutrition

Overview

Rice is a staple for more than half of the world’s population and is a food in nearly all the world’s cultures.  It is nutritious, easy to digest, and plentiful – thus an excellent component in world feeding programs. Rice is versatile and easy to prepare, store, handle, and distribute. 
Image of a Girl Eating Rice
Rice is comprised of mostly complex carbohydrates, contains essential amino acids and has the highest quality protein of all the grains. Using Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Scoring, rice has a 31% better quality protein than corn and a 38% better quality protein than wheat. This method of evaluating protein quality is useful to food aid professionals in planning diets with adequate protein since less protein is needed in diets when higher quality protein is included.

Rice is Perfect for Food Aid Because it is:

  • Rich in complex carbohydrates*
  • Contains all eight essential amino acids*
  • Cholesterol and sodium-free *
  • Hypoallergenic*
  • Therapeutic for some digestive disorders   
  • High digestibility (88%) aids in nutrient absorption 
  • Readily available and easy to handle/transport
  • Shelf life of two years
  • Meets USG "processed" food requirement**
  • Meets the USG "bagged in the US" requirement**
Image of a large pot of cooked rice
* Very important points for improving the nutritional levels of those who have compromised immune systems.
**Congressional mandate for USAID Title II programs.

Rice Nutrients

The nutritional values of long, medium, and short grain rice are essentially the same within each variety or classification (i.e., brown or white).  Below is a comparison chart of brown rice, unenriched white rice, and parboiled rice:
This is a chart that compares the nutrients of brown rice, unenriched white rice, and unenriched parboiled rice.
Fortified Rice

Overview

Over the last decade, USDA and USAID have sought to diversify the portfolio of value added nutritional foods made with U.S. origin commodities for global food aid and nutritional programming.  Developing a series of micronutrient-fortified foods to address not only hunger but also persistent nutritional deficiencies have also led to cost effective options for feeding. Fortified rice is among the most effective delivery mechanisms and is the most cost effective for bioavailable micronutrients that can be utilized in food assistance and nutritional programming.

Image of a bag of Fortified Rice from the USA
Rice fortification provides an immediate, ready-to-use product that helps to address micronutrient deficiencies on a large scale. Lack of Vitamin A and iron are among the most persistent and damaging micronutrient deficiencies impacting growth and development. USA Rice is working closely with USDA, USAID, WFP and the PVO community to lead to the successful and effective use of fortified rice.

Nutrients included in fortified rice: Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B12, Folic Acid, Iron and Zinc.

Background

  • 2010: USDA and USAID receive additional funding through the McGovern Dole Food for Education Program to conduct a series of micronutrient fortification pilot programs, including fortified rice.
  • 2014: A school feeding intervention program in Cambodia showed significant improvements in vitamin A and zinc uptake with the fortified rice.
  • 2014: Fortified rice is added to USAID’s master list of commodities for use in U.S. government food assistance programs.
  • 2015 – 2017: Additional studies further confirm the effectiveness of fortified rice in addressing nutrient deficiencies. 

Information on how to register to become an approved exporter for food assistance programs can be found here:  https://portal.wbscm.usda.gov/

 
Specifications

Rice Types

Long Grain:
  • When cooked, the grains are separate, light, and fluffy. 
  • USAGE: This type of rice is ideal for recipes requiring a distinct shape and texture 
  • WHERE: Traditionally eaten in the Western Hemisphere, Eastern Europe, Middle East, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and most of Africa
  • CROP SIZE: Approximately 75% of the rice crop is long grain, averaging about 2 million acres 
  • COST: The price tends to vary with demand on a yearly basis 
  • COOKING: 1 cup of uncooked rice with 2 cups of water cooks in about 20 minutes yielding 3 cups of rice.
Medium Grain:
  • When cooked the grains are moist and tender, and have a greater tendency to cling (think sushi rice)
  • USAGE: This type of rice cooks to a somewhat creamy consistency.
  • WHERE: Traditionally eaten in Central Asia, North Asia, Mediterranean and Aegean regions.
  • CROP SIZE: Approximately 20% of the rice crop is medium grain
  • COST: The price tends to vary with demand on a yearly basis
  • COOKING: 1 cup of uncooked rice with 1.5 cups of water cooks in about 20 minutes yielding about 3 cups of rice. 

Rice Grades

  • #2/7 or better has 7% broken kernels, "may be slightly gray" in color and is well-milled.
  • #5/20 or better has 20% broken kernels, "may be gray or slightly rosy" in color and reasonably well-milled. The nutritional content is virtually the same as #2.  Cooking time is slightly shorter than # 2.

Milling Types

  • Brown rice or whole grain: is the least processed form of rice. It has the outer hull removed, but still retains the bran layers that give it the tan color and nut-like flavor. This type of rice has the highest nutritional value. One cup cooks in 45 to 50 minutes yielding 3 to 4 cups.
  • Reasonably well-milled: most of the bran layer is removed which results in a slightly darker color then well-milled rice.
  • Well-milled: all of the bran is removed. Most rice consumers prefer this type.
     

Recent News

Two men carry large box labeled "USAID from the American People" from a helicopter
Special delivery
Aug 10, 2018
WASHINGTON, DC -- Fortified rice was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for inclusion in the commodity master list nearly four years ago.  Since that time and through the end of 2017, rice tonnage in food assistance has been increasing as more fortified and regular milled rice has been programmed in USDA’s McGovern Dole Food for Education and Food for Progress programs, as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Food for Peace Program.

In 2017, of the 103,000 MT of rice used in global feeding programs, approximately 25 percent or 25,000 MT consisted of fortified rice.  

The World Food Programme (WFP), as well as other relief organizations have expressed interest in increasing their use of fortified rice in global feeding programs.  Additionally, USAID has committed to using all fortified rice in their future programs.

“While the potential for significant tonnage increase has been present for some time, the fortified rice numbers are lower than what USA Rice had forecast, particularly given the current ongoing global hunger crisis,” said Bobby Hanks, chairman of the USA Rice Food Aid Subcommittee.  “For the first three quarters of this year, 15,000 MT of fortified rice has been programmed which suggests that tonnage in 2018 will be at the same level or lower than 2017.”

While there are many factors impacting fortified rice tonnage in food aid, USA Rice has worked closely with USDA and USAID leadership, as well as WFP, to ensure that the current commodity specification for fortified rice allows for the use of both extruded and a rinse resistant a fortified rice premix.  

Up until last week, the commodity document only allowed for the use of extruded kernels.  This may be one of the key factors limiting fortified rice tonnage in food aid and possibly limiting the number of companies that bid on food aid tenders to date.  

After years of research, global field testing, and stakeholder meetings, the USDA amended the commodity specification language last week adding the option to use either extruded or rinse resistant coated fortified rice and immediately issued a new tender for fortified rice in Sub-Saharan Africa allowing for either fortification technology.  

“This is definitely a positive step towards increased use of fortified rice in global food aid programs,” said Hanks.  “USA Rice looks forward to continued cooperation with our partners at USDA and USAID as we collaborate on shelf life and packaging details for fortified rice to strength its important role combatting both global hunger and malnutrition.”