The Rice Stuff Gets Philosophical

Number 37 superimposed over photo of combine and grain cart in mature rice field
This episode looks at aromatic imports and what's driving demand for specialty rices
Jan 11, 2022
ARLINGTON, VA – Do you see difficulty in every opportunity or opportunity in every difficulty? That was how Winston Churchill defined optimists and pessimists and it’s a question co-hosts Michael Klein and Lesley Dixon ask listeners on the latest episode of The Rice Stuff podcast, Episode 37, “Aromatic Rice Imports: Threat or Opportunity?”

Joining Klein and Dixon are Milo Hamilton, senior economist and president of First Grain, and Tanner Ehmke, lead economist for dairy and specialty crops at CoBank, to discuss their recent report, “Fragrant Rice: Opportunity or Threat for the U.S. Rice Industry?”

“Milo and Tanner presented their findings and analysis at the 2021 USA Rice Outlook Conference and sitting in the audience, I knew we had to talk about this on the podcast,” said Dixon.  “From the trendlines on imports to the global market predictions and the farm gate economics, the very future of the U.S. rice industry is wrapped up in this topic.”

The report, that can be found online in the CoBank Knowledge Exchange Library, looks at Thai jasmine and Indian basmati imports, the growing U.S. demand for these specialty rices and what’s driving it, and the headwinds the U.S. industry is battling to gain an advantage in the space.  

“Milo brought up one of my favorite topics in the domestic promotion arena and that’s ‘romanticizing the rice,’” said Klein who also serves as the vice president of domestic promotion for USA Rice.  “We’ve been talking about this for years – that rice clearly stands out from other crops environmentally, but we still have work to do to help rice rise above other food choices facing consumers.  Projecting an exciting name or flavor profile is part of that, and for whatever reason, the aromatic varieties have captured the imagination of a large swath of the public.”

Ehmke offers analysis on the economics of growing fragrant rices for U.S. producers, and while it certainly may not work for all, it can definitely work for many.

The report, published in September 2021, became one of the most widely-anticipated and attended education sessions at the 2021 USA Rice Outlook Conference.

“I wish we had more time on the podcast to talk about everything Milo and Tanner presented at Outlook, but that’s why it’s important to attend the conference,” said Klein.  “This strikes me as a topic we’ll keep talking about on the podcast and probably asking Milo and Tanner to update us at Outlook 2022 this December in Austin, Texas.”

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