China Green Light on U.S. Rice Seen as ‘Goodwill’ Trade Gesture

(Bloomberg) -- China, the world’s top rice producer and consumer, is allowing imports of the grain from the U.S. in a move seen as “a goodwill gesture” while negotiations continue to resolve a trade war between the two countries.

Registered U.S. suppliers can export rice to the Asian country with effect from Dec. 27, according to a statement from China’s customs administration on Friday. That follows the conclusion of a phytosanitary agreement and comes before a resumption of bilateral trade discussions in China in January.

“This is a goodwill gesture from the Chinese government before the talks,” said Ma Wenfeng, an analyst with Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultant Co. But U.S. prices are not competitive compared with supplies from Thailand and Vietnam, China’s main suppliers, and import volumes will probably be limited, said Ma. U.S. supplies would also still be subject to retaliatory tariffs.

China is the world’s biggest rice importer, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with purchases estimated at 5 million metric tons in the 2018-19 year. Seven U.S. suppliers have registered to export to China, including Farmers’ Rice Cooperative and American Commodity Company LLC, China’s customs said in a separate statement.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.