China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) said on Wednesday that U.S. rice needs to gain further approval from Chinese officials to enter the market, despite a recent agreement that would open up the Chinese market to U.S. rice for the first time.
After several rounds of talks, Chinese and U.S. officials agreed last week on inspection and quarantine requirements for U.S. rice to enter the Chinese market, but that's just the first step, according to Chinese law, a MOFCOM spokes person said in a statement online.
U.S. rice producers and processors that intend to export rice to the Chinese market still need to register with the U.S. government, which then recommends them to China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), according to the statement.
After gaining approval from the AQSIQ, the U.S. side still needs to conduct a fumigation process on the rice and submit pesticides and techniques used in the process to Chinese officials for inspection and confirmation, the statement added.
"The three steps above are integral parts of the process," the MOFCOM spokesperson said, "so far, only one step has been completed, so U.S. rice trade with China cannot go ahead yet."
The U.S. had been pushing China to open up its domestic market to U.S. farmers while China was importing an increasing amount of rice from other countries.
The agreement was reached last week during the China-U.S. Comprehensive Economic Dialogue meeting in Washington D.C. and was hailed by U.S. officials as a historic step that would greatly benefit U.S. farmers and processors.
"The agreement with China has been in the works for more than a decade and I'm pleased to see it finally come to fruition, especially knowing how greatly it will benefit our growers and industry," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement following the agreement.
A local media outlet in California, the second-largest rice-goring state in the U.S., quoted Jim Morris, an official at the California Rice Commission, as saying, "hopefully by the end of the year, we'll have rice heading to China… We anticipate the volume will start slow, and then we'll build on that."
China imported 3.56 million tons of rice in 2016, increasing 5.5 percent year-on-year, according to customs data released in February. The country spent more than .6 billion on rice imports in the same year, up 7.7 percent from the previous year, the data showed.