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Australia Medium Grain Rice #1 $ N/A    Egypt 101 #2 $760    Egypt 178 #2 Rice $730    EU Prices Baldo €660    EU Prices LG-A Ariete 5% €550    EU Prices MG Lotto 5% €500    EU Prices RG Balilla 5% €500    Russia Rapan $ 700    USA Jupiter Paddy $375    USA Calrose #1 Paddy $480    USA Jupiter Rice $630    USA Calrose #1 $830   

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U.S. Growers Promoting Rice in Japan
The California Rice Masters competition was part of a $1 million campaign kicked off by the USA Rice Federation, an organization of American rice growers and millers, to promote Calrose rice. Calrose is widely used in the U.S. but is entering the restaurant and retail market here as kernel rice for the first time in September.

The eight finalists, chosen among 250 entries, labored over their dishes on stage, a couple with trembling fingers, as judges, reporters and guests watched, and later taste-tested, in a Tokyo hotel on Friday.

One contestant shaped a futuristic cakelike sushi decorated with curly seaweed. Another wrapped rice mixed with stir-fried seaweed in paper-thin beef slices grilled on a griddle.

But even winner Masataka Suzuki, 36, a chef specializing in French food, who created the souffle, acknowledged he preferred eating Japanese rice, and struggled cooking Calrose, which he said wasn't as moist as Japanese rice.

"I tried to make it taste as close as I could to Japanese rice," he said. "Consumers would probably like it if it's cooked with a spoonful of butter."

Over the years, American rice growers have developed Japanese-style short-grain rice to appeal to this market.

Demand for such rice has grown in the U.S. and elsewhere, thanks to the booming popularity of sushi, but the appetite for U.S. rice has stayed flat in Japan, according to the USA Rice Federation.

The group's latest strategy is to switch to promoting Calrose medium-grain rice for soups, fried rice and other dishes, rather than compete directly against Japanese rice.

Japanese-style rice is usually cooked in plain water to be fluffy white in a bowl, and Japanese tend to be suspicious of foreign rice, stereotyping it as dry, tasteless and possibly unsafe.

"The tendency among consumers to favor Japanese rice is deeply rooted," Yasuo Sasaki, a Japanese agriculture ministry official, said in a telephone interview. "Japanese rice is stickier and has a special fluffy feel."

Japan opened its rice market only in 1995, and the government still tightly controls the influx of foreign rice, keeping tariffs for rice at 770 percent.

Most of the 770,000 tons of rice Japan imports a year end up as foreign aid, get processed for crackers, or sit in storage. Only a handful reaches consumers in restaurants and supermarkets.

Recently, American rice has been losing to cheaper Chinese rice, tumbling in market share from 70 percent of Japan's foreign rice a decade ago to 20 percent, according to the federation.

"If given a fair opportunity in the Japanese market, Calrose rice will be accepted and successful," said USA Rice Federation official Christopher Crutchfield.

At first, 34 tons of Calrose rice will trickle into restaurants and import stores.

Calrose medium-grain rice, which is cheaper than American short-grain rice, sells for about $1 a pound in the U.S. The Japan price is still undecided.

"It should be up to the consumer and not the government. That's all we are asking. But with rice, it's very, very difficult," said Daniel Berman, a U.S. Embassy official overseeing agricultural affairs.

Yukio Hattori, a culinary expert and commentator on the "Iron Chef" TV show, said American rice stands up to the best in gourmet, especially for Chinese and Western cuisines, but isn't as sweet as the most expensive Japanese rice.

"It lacks flavor when you chew it," he said after judging the contest.

Housewife Sachiyo Fukutani, who had tried U.S. rice only once before, said she enjoyed American rice.

"This is light and easy to eat," she said, spooning Suzuki's risotto. "There's a surprise element."
MGR Archive 24.7.2007
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Region Type Price  
Russia Rapan $ 700
USA Jupiter Rice $630
USA Calrose #1 $830
USA Calrose #1 Paddy $480
EU Prices Baldo €660
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