China agrees to allow imports of US rice for first time

China has agreed to allow imports of US rice.
China has agreed to allow imports of US rice. PHOTO: REUTERS

CHICAGO (REUTERS) - China officials have agreed to allow imports of US rice for the first time ever, US Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Thursday (July 20).

The move would give US farmers access to the world's biggest rice consumer, with China importing about 5 million tonnes last year, Perdue said in a statement.

"We waited a decade for the protocol to be signed and our members are anxious to meet the demand of China's consumers for safe, high-quality US rice," USA Rice President Betsy Ward said in a statement, adding that China consumes the equivalent of the entire US rice crop every 13 days.

The announcement was another sign of strengthening relations on agriculture trade between the United States and China under US President Donald Trump, despite disagreements in other areas such as steel.

China last month resumed imports of US beef for the first time since 2003.

Last week, Chinese buyers inked deals valued at about US$5 billion (S$6.8 billion) during a ceremony in Iowa to buy 12.53 million tonnes of US soybeans and 371 tonnes of beef and pork.

US rice futures turned higher after the announcement, rising about 3.5 cents to US$11.90 per cwt in late morning trade.