Local reaction to US-China rice export agreement - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Local reaction to US-China rice export agreement

Rice (Source: KPLC) Rice (Source: KPLC)
JEFF DAVIS PARISH, LA (KPLC) -

After years of political gridlock, the United States and China reached a trade agreement for exporting rice. Once the deal is finalized, it could provide a boost to farmers across the U.S., including those here in Louisiana.

From rice farming alone, Louisiana earns $712 million in revenue in exports, and across the U.S., $5.6 Billion, not including the value added from mills.

Bill Rase with the Port of Lake Charles says the deal is a breakthrough that's been years in the making. 

"You're talking about something that could be very beneficial to everybody's economy, including Louisiana and Louisiana rice farmers," said Rase. 

Kevin Berken, a rice farmer in Jeff Davis Parish, said having another market to export Louisiana rice only helps the economy. 

"It's a big deal for us - the rice industry - and is huge for this area," said Berken. "We employ a lot of people with our mills and everything, and our export services."

Berken added China has the potential of being a very good market. 

"They consume the equivalent of the whole U.S. rice production in 18 days, so it's a big deal over there," said Berken. "We're anticipating that within the next year or so we should be able to send them about 50,000 metric tons, that's what the projections are, and within five years 240,000 metric tons." 

Both Rase and Berken agree, however, that it's a process that won't happen overnight. 

"There's a lot of information the Chinese will be requiring of us," said Rase. 

The reason is because of a quality control initiative within the trade deal. 

"The rice that we send to them is going to need to be clean of the bugs and all of the germs that could affect their country," said Berken. "So they're going to be coming within the next couple of months to tour our mills," said Berken. 

Berken said he hopes the Chinese will look to Louisiana as the go-to for rice once everything is finalized. 

"They don't know anything about our rice. Once we begin the process of letting them taste it, and teaching them about our rice, then I think it'll be a great market for us," said Berken. 

Copyright 2017 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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