SOUTH KOREA and US - South Korea is a small, but high-value market for the US rice industry. The US exports have averaged more than 104,000 MT of rice to Korea annually over the past six years - representing about 25 per cent of the roughly 410,000 MT imported by volume, or 26 per cent of imports by value.
However, a shift may be coming. While Korea continues to purchase US rice, officials are attempting to manage rice supplies that exceed domestic demand.
In 2013, Korea's rice harvest produced a nearly 200,000 ton surplus. In reaction, the Korean agriculture ministry is looking west to tap into China's rice market.
In order to boost shipments to China, the South Korean government must lift restrictions that inhibit the volume and price of rice exports.
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture has just published an exporters' handbook containing key information about prominent buyers in crucial importing countries as a means of assisting Korea's export market to countries like China.
In addition, last year, Korea announced that it was shifting to rice tarrification, eliminating the country-specific quota the US and others utilized.
The United States, and several other countries, have objected to Korea's version of rice tariffication in the World Trade Organization (WTO), and those complaints remain outstanding, meaning that Korea's current rice import regime has yet to be officially approved by the WTO.
"We're active with promotion efforts in Korea because there is demand for high quality US rice, but we do have potential market access problems as a result of tariffication, which began in January," explained Jim Guinn, USA Rice's vice president of international promotion.
"We are urging the US to engage with Korea to address our concerns, and the fact that Korea is now looking to increase exports, clearly indicate this is a challenging market. We'll continue to monitor the situation."
TheCropSite News Desk