U.S. group raps China over proposed rice import rules

Reuters / Chinese proposals to assure that any rice imported from the United States is safe and free of pests are “onerous and restrictive,” a U.S. rice trade group said Nov. 2, forecasting long negotiations before sales can go ahead.

U.S. groups have pursued access to China, the world’s largest rice consumer, since 2006.

Although their efforts paid off in early October when China produced a draft protocol for phytosanitary standards on milled rice, the proposals have been criticized in the United States as unreasonable.

“We see parts of the protocol as being onerous and restrictive,” said Bob Cummings, chief operating officer of USA Rice Federation, an umbrella group for growers, millers and merchants.

U.S. rice, which carries a higher price, would be aimed at higher-income Chinese shoppers by highlighting the U.S. reputation for food safety, said USA Rice officials during a telephone news conference.

They said China was interested in quantities ranging from bulk delivery to sealed bags ready for retail sale.

China, the world’s largest rice producer, is forecast by USDA to import 1.5 million tonnes of rice in 2012-13, compared with 1.62 million tonnes in 2011-12 and 540,000 tonnes in 2010-11.

USA Rice said it will ask USDA to seek more reasonable plant safety terms, adding that China’s demands are more stringent than those set by other importers.

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