WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. officials confirmed on Jan. 21 to USA Rice that the U.S. and China have agreed on a phytosanitary protocol that will permit the import of U.S. milled rice. 

"The challenge now is to move from agreement to shipments," said Betsy Ward, USA Rice chief executive officer (CEO).

Dow Brantley, an Arkansas rice farmer and USA Rice chairman said, "This extraordinary agreement has been a long time coming and I commend the U.S. negotiators and USA Rice for sticking to it and getting us a phytosanitary protocol that while more complicated and detailed than any other rice protocol in the world, is something both industries appear able to make work that will result in a new market opening up for U.S.-grown rice."

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials provided new details on how they intend to turn the phytosanitary protocol into actual export opportunities for U.S. rice.  Bob Cummings, USA Rice's chief operating officer (COO), participated in a Jan. 21 Grain Sector Strategic Planning Meeting sponsored by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) where the status of access to China was a key topic discussed by APHIS leadership. 

APHIS laid out a series of steps involving separate inspections by APHIS and its Chinese counterpart of U.S. mills and storage facilities interested in exporting to China, publication by China of a list of ports eligible to receive U.S. rice and, finally, issuance of a decree by the Chinese government authorizing imports. If there are no interruptions, imports could be permitted by early spring of this year, according to the agency.

"We have been working with APHIS for several weeks to identify U.S. mills and storage facilities interested in exporting to China and willing to comply with the insect trapping and record keeping requirements of the protocol," said Cummings. "APHIS will soon contact these entities to arrange on-site inspections to assess compliance with APHIS's work plan. A list of certified U.S. mills and storage facilities will then be forwarded by APHIS to China and Chinese authorities will do their own inspections, though perhaps just a sample of facilities. USA Rice will continue to work with APHIS and take the lead in educating the industry about the specific requirements of the protocol and work plan."