Although rice is not considered a staple food in the United States, Americans are turning to the global rice market more than ever. The Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service says U.S. imports of rice now account for about one percent of the value of all U.S. agricultural imports.
In 2019/20, U.S. rice imports are projected at 32.5 million hundredweight, up nine percent from a year earlier and the third consecutive record. Imports now account for more than 20 percent of the total domestic rice market, with two factors driving the recent records.
First is a large increase in demand for Asian aromatic varieties, primarily jasmine rice from Thailand and basmati rice from India and Pakistan. These specific varieties are not grown in the United States and account for around 70 percent of U.S. rice imports.
Second, Puerto Rico is importing cheaper rice from China, about eight percent of total U.S. rice imports, and largely replacing U.S. suppliers. Nearly all of China’s rice exports to Puerto Rico are from its government-accumulated stocks of older rice that are sold at well below current trading prices.