South Africa Trade Mission Taps New Markets

South Africa Trade Mission, Group photo with Ted McKinney
South Africe trade mission team
Nov 08, 2018
JOHANNESBURG/CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA -- Last week USA Rice participated in a Trade Mission here led by Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney and organized by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Thirty-four U.S. companies and cooperator groups attended, as well as leaders from the Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Nevada, North Dakota, and Utah Departments of Agriculture.

The mission was based in Johannesburg and Cape Town, but participants had the opportunity to engage with potential customers from Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

“This trade mission is part of USDA’s continuing effort to tap into new markets for U.S. agricultural products,” McKinney said.  “The Southern Africa region is typically a net importer of agricultural goods, but the majority of those imports currently come from Europe, Asia, and elsewhere in Africa.  We are excited about the potential to grow the United States’ market share and cultivate new customers for high-quality, cost-competitive U.S. food and farm products.”

“Rice consumption is fairly stable in South Africa with total rice imports exceeding one million MT in 2017,” said Eszter Somogyi, USA Rice director for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, who was on the trade mission.  “The market is dominated by Thai rice with 77 percent market share, followed by India with 17 percent.  However, in high end supermarkets there is a wide variety of rice types available including long grain milled and parboiled, as well as medium grain, brown, and fragrant rice types and wild rice mixes.”

South Africa was a major importer of U.S. parboiled rice in the 1990s before sales shifted to Asian origins in the early 2000s.  In 2017 U.S. rice sales totaled 800 MT, with a value of $736,000.

“South Africa is a price sensitive market, as are all other markets in the region,” said Somogyi.   “But there is always demand by higher income groups for high quality food products, which is where the opportunity for different U.S. rice types, including long and medium grain rice, can be found.”

During the trip with McKinney, Somogyi expressed appreciation to USDA for helping to mitigate the impact of the retaliatory tariffs and trade tensions by organizing trade missions as well as through the Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) program, where USA Rice has submitted several innovative ideas to find new markets and to expand existing markets for increased U.S. rice sales.

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