While adverse weather during the 2010 growing season resulted in lower than normal milling yields for much of the southern rice crop, with increased challenges in marketing the rice, Dwight Roberts says the industry’s promotion efforts are continuing to see positive results, particularly in Mexico and Central America.

“Mexico is our No. 1 market for long grain rice, and while consumption is increasing there, it is still relatively low for a nation of 110 million people,” says Roberts, president and chief executive officer of US Rice Producers Association, who spoke at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Rice Council at Cleveland, Miss.

“We had our first-ever National Rice Day promotion in Mexico last year, and were very pleased with the results for the various events and the coverage in the media. It was an excellent opportunity for us to get U.S. rice out in front of consumers.

“The Mexican government, which is concerned that the country ranks No. 1 in childhood obesity, is looking at rice as a component of combating the problem. They are interested in making it a part of their school lunch programs.”

Under the Foreign Agricultural Service’s Global Broad-Based Initiatives program, funds are available for promoting rice in Mexico’s school lunch programs, Roberts notes, “and contributions by Mississippi rice producers have played a role in these promotion and marketing efforts.

“We are really excited about this program and the support of the Mexican government for U.S. rice.”

Western hemisphere demand for rice continues strong, he says, “but we continue to face challenges in dealing with the milling problems in last year’s crop.

“Also, a record crop is expected in South America’s Mercosur common market countries, with prices below those for U.S. rice. And Brazil has a new rice subsidy, which is currently being analyzed by the Foreign Agriculture Service.

“Venezuela, which was self-sufficient in rice just a few years ago, has now become a big wild card rice buyer, and is importing rice from Argentina.