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The global staple

north-america

The United States

The United States is a highly industrialized country with a population reaching approximately 310 million in 2010. Agriculture represents only 1.2% of the GDP and almost 99% of its employed populace is working in industries other than agriculture.

U.S. rice production accounts for 1.6% of total world production. The U.S. produced 11 million t in 2010 grown on 1.46 million ha with an average of 7.5 t/ha. All this rice is grown in seven states, with the three major states—Arkansas, California, and Louisiana—together making up more than 80% of U.S. rice area and production. 

Long-, medium-, and short-grain types are grown throughout the U.S. rice areas. However, long-grain types and hybrids are more common in southern states whereas medium-grain types are more common in California.

 

Exports

The U.S. is the fourth-largest exporter of rice, having exported 12% of all world exports in 2010. This is nearly 4 million t of rice – mostly milled – which is largely marketed to Canada, Haiti, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

 

Consumption

Rice consumption in the U.S. is low compared with most Asian countries. Its annual per capita rice consumption fell to 8.3kg from 12.3kg per person in 2009.

Direct food use make up about a sixth of U.S. consumption while the rest are from processed foods and beer.

General interest in rice has broadened because of the increase in Asian and Hispanic populations who prefer rice.

 

Brewing

Missouri-based brewing company Anheuser-Busch uses rice and corn flour for its popular beer brands such as Budweiser and Coors. The brewing giant buys almost a tenth of the annual crop, making it the largest purchaser of U.S. rice. 

 

Wild rice

Contrary to the weedy type of rice referred in Asia, the American “wild rice” is actually not rice at all. Zizania palustris or American wild rice is a semiaquatic cousin to rice and a grass native to the Great Lakes region of U.S. and Canada.

Wild rice was domesticated and eaten as early as the time of the pharaohs and Native North Americans. Today, it is still comparatively wild with regard to plant variability and seed shattering.

Now, wild rice is grown commercially in Minnesota, California, and Canada similar to the way “real” rice is grown. However, wild rice is a recalcitrant seed and thus cannot be dried for storage.

Rice environments

Rice is grown on natural flatlands – 100% of these flatlands in California and southern U.S. have been further leveled by laser-directed machinery.

Additionally, rice is grown in different environments. Such examples are the semi-arid climate of California and the humid subtropical Gulf Coast of Louisiana with rainfall ranging from as low as 50mm of rainfall to as high as 1,000mm.

Several problems such as diseases (blast, sheath blight), weeds, poor stand establishment, environmental concerns and taxing regulations make it challenging for U.S. production to maintain high yields.

Mexico

Maize is the main staple of more than 114 million inhabitants in Mexico. However, 200,000 t of rice is produced in Mexico every year. Rice is grown in at least 17 states, the three major states being Sinaloa, Campeche, and Veracruz. These major states contribute more than 20% of the nation’s total rice production.

Rice production has declined from about 350,000 t in 1980 to nearly 220,000 t in 2010. Harvested area fell by about 40% and so did the harvest, suggesting little further yield gains in recent years. This led to an increase in rice imports from the U.S.

Consequently, Mexico became the largest export market after a 2kg decrease in annual per capita consumption between 2000 and 2009.

If you want to learn more, please read the Rice Almanac. You can purchase it on Kindle or download for free as a PDF.

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