Contributing more than $5 billion and more than 25,000 jobs, California’s rice industry is an established and valuable component of the state’s economy.
In fact, nearly half of its annual production of Japonica style rice (a sticky variety very popular in Asia) goes abroad, with Japan being the biggest customer.
California rice growers have attributed their exacting standards for quality and product safety to their long-standing relationship with the Japanese rice industry.
“The Japanese market has the highest standards. We have to go through lots of testing and quality sampling just to get our rice to Japan. That has brought the California rice industry to a higher level,” explained fifth-generation rice grower Charley Mathews Jr., also a former chairman of the California Rice Commission.
“There are very few locations in the world that can match our quality, our variety and our food safety. This gives us a significant advantage, especially in Japan where the consumer looks for the safest product. On the quality side, we are the best,” Mathews added.
Having established a steady relationship over the past two decades, California rice growers have expressed hope that business ties will further expand in the Japanese market.
“It may be a challenging topic but what we would like to see is access to the consumer in Japan. Access to the actual store shelf has been very slow. But we fully understand that these things take time. Our goal is not to disrupt the rice farming system in Japan, but only to augment the available choices for the consumers out there,” Mathews stressed.
“We are not a competitor of Japan and its rice farmers. This is about a relationship we have spent decades developing. Our high standards and quality are a by-product of that relationship. As we move forward, we recognize that our relationship with Japan is the most important and we always make sure that all our commitments are fulfilled. Japan is the main focus for California rice,” he added.