US state hopes to gain in rice market

By May Zhou and Zhang Yuan in Little Rock, Arkansas | China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-26 07:02

China's recent announcement that it would open its market to US rice exports made the governor of Arkansas happy.

"It's such an incredible benefit to our state. It will help Arkansas and our agriculture industry become more well known in China," Governor Asa Hutchinson said in his office on Friday.

According to research by the University of Arkansas, people in China consume about 180 pounds of rice a year on average, while those in the United States eat less than 33 pounds a year. China is the largest rice importer, and the US ranks third in rice exports.

Arkansas produces roughly half of the total US rice output.

"We are delighted to have that market of China open. We produce more than we consume in the US. We market all across the world. Opening the China market will help us a great deal, even if we just get a small part of the market. We expect we will be making rice sales to China very quickly," Hutchinson said.

Arkansas produces mostly long-grain rice, which is drier and fluffier and favored by US consumers. Chinese favor milled rice, which is thicker and stickier.

Hutchinson said he welcomes Chinese rice companies to visit Arkansas growers to work together to produce the right kind of rice for Chinese consumers.

"We would love to attract Chinese companies to come here to process rice also. That makes sense for our state," Hutchinson said.

"We have grown our foreign job creation by 45 percent over the last five years," Hutchinson said.

And China is a primary source for Hutchinson when it comes to attracting foreign investment. In less than two years since he took office in January 2015, Hutchinson has visited China twice and is planning a third trip to China in October.

His efforts have produced results. Four Chinese companies recently announced investment in the state: Shandong Ruyi Technology (800 new jobs in Forrest City), Sun Paper (250 new jobs in Clark County), Tianyuan Garment (400 new jobs in Little Rock) and Pet Won Pet Products (70 new jobs in Danville). The four projects have a combined investment of more than $1.4 billion.

During his upcoming trip to China, Hutchinson said he will continue to promote Arkansas' agricultural resources, manufacturing and tourism.

"Three million Chinese visitors come to the US every year. They historically go to the East and West coasts. In Arkansas, we have a broad variety of scenes and beautiful vistas," he said. "Johnny Cash's home and Clinton's Presidential Library are here. As people come here to do business, they will know it's also a good place to visit," Hutchinson said.

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