California company to be first in US to sell rice to China

Global Business

With U.S.-China trade tensions at a heightened state- a California company has made a surprising breakthrough.

It’s set to be the first in the United States to sell rice to China.

CGTN’s Mark Niu reports.

The latest trade talk negotiations ended without a new deal as China and the U.S still struggle to find common ground. But in a time of high tension, one U.S. company has made a breakthrough by selling a staple product to the China market – rice.

In California’s Sacramento Valley, Sun Valley Rice company has made a breakthrough – it’s about to become the first US company ever to sell rice to China.

One of China’s largest rice importers – Dragon Ocean Hing Group – will be bringing in Sun Valley’s California Calrose rice and distributing it for both retail and foodservice.

“My great grand parents moved here and bought this property a little over 100 years ago,” says rice farmer and Sun Valley Rice CEO Ken LeGrande.

LeGrande has worked these fields since he was a child.

“These are some of the very first ones and it’ll just explode in five days,” said LaGrange while showing me the head of the plant. “They’re just about a week before we can find any juice. That’s going to be a rice kernel right there.”

LeGrande says the historic deal to crack the China market is the result of 15 years of hard work and patience.

“We’re just awfully excited to be the first American company to sell American rice into China,” said LeGrande. “Our company has been working really diligently for the last several years going to China, meeting with potential buyers. That’s really what it takes the ability to go to China and understand how important the traditions of rice are.”

The rice plants in these fields will be harvested in early September. By the end of September, more than 36,000 kilos of the product will be shipped to Shenzhen, China.

Part of what impressed Chinese importers is Sun Valley’s quality control. Probes collect grain samples from every delivery so that workers can check for damage or impurities by hand,

They also measure the precise moisture level of the grains. If the first shipment to China works out, more business will follow.

Sun valley also buys from other growers – about ten percent of the California rice crop– so the deal could benefit the entire industry.

“Trade between the US and China is at a really critical point in our view and if the humble dish of rice can be part of what opens that door a little further and starts the flow of trade between our two countries, then we are very proud to be a part of that historic moment,” said LeGrande.

It’s also a proud moment for a family that’s been growing rice for five generations.

“It really surprising to think how I was ten years old and riding on a tractor with my grandfather, never thinking that someday I would be producing a crop and being that first rice to go to China,” said LeGrande.