Nation’s export leader has chance to strengthen link in global food chain

Oakland, Calif. - A new U.S.-China trade pact should increase rice exports here, the Port of Oakland said today. The deal opening China’s market to American growers will likely strengthen Oakland’s link in the global food chain.

American rice exports could enter China as soon as 2018 following approval of a trade agreement last month. The Port said it’s too soon to estimate how much its business would increase. It added, however, that volumes should rise based on three factors:

  • California’s Sacramento Valley is one of the largest rice producing regions in the U.S. The Port of Oakland is the nearest gateway to China for containerized rice exports from the valley.
  • Oakland is already the nation’s leader, shipping two-thirds of all U.S. containerized rice exports.
  • There’s no faster, more direct route from the U.S. to China than through Oakland.

“We’re glad a rice agreement has been reached because there’s strong demand for high-quality U.S. food products in China,” said Port of Oakland Maritime Director John Driscoll. “Given our location and track record with agricultural exports we would hope to play a role in this new trade breakthrough.”

The China trade deal comes as the U.S. dollar is softening against foreign currencies. That makes American products more affordable overseas. As a result, U.S. exports including rice are likely to grow.

Oakland exports were already forecast to rise next year based on another American-grown product: meat. The Port expects to open a 300,000-square-foot refrigerated distribution center next summer for chilled and frozen beef, pork and poultry. That plant will prepare up to 37,000 20-foot containers of product for export annually.

In January, the Port reported a 233 percent increase in agricultural export tonnage over the past five years. It said growing rice and meat shipments would magnify Oakland’s importance as an international food distribution hub.