Best Global Consumer Markets for Selling Imported Rice

Total rice imports in 2020 were valued at US$24.9 billion, elevating rice to rank among the world’s most valuable imported staple foods. The cost for globally imported rice increased 23% over the 5-year period from 2016 to 2020.

Year over year, the dollar amount spent on the imported cereal grain slowed to a 0.5% gain since 2019.

As an easily purchased food item at grocery stores, rice is considered a convenience product for consumers. Rice is a staple food used in soups, serves as a side dish particularly for fish and chicken, is used to stuff vegetables, and is an ingredient to create bread, desserts and breakfast porridges.  

The 5 most lucrative global consumer markets for importing rice account for almost one-quarter (23.6%) of the overall international spending on rice imported during 2020. The highest cashflows are generated by buyers in: China (5.8%), Saudi Arabia (5.6%), United States (5.1%), Iran (3.53%) and Philippines (3.5%).

Among these 5 leading markets, the lone year-over-year decrease was the -8% drop from importers in China.

The following analysis focuses on key metrics measuring trends for consumer demand in the top 100 global markets for rice.

By comparing changes in consumer demand for imported rice by country, we can uncover the most attractive opportunities for selling rice and related products and services on international markets.

Rice Is A Consumer Convenience Product

Rice satisfies the criteria of a consumer good (also called an end product) created for consumers to buy in its final form for cooking or other type of meal preparation. In contrast, products like turbojets are usually purchased by companies or government entities rather than individuals.

Economists classify rice as a convenience product, a technical classification for goods that are easily accessed and frequently purchased. Consumers often buy rice on weekly or monthly trips to their local grocery store.

Rice is also defined as a convenience product because it is non-durable since it usually stored for under 3 years.

The actual shelf life for dried rice depends on the type of rice, with white rice having a shelf live of up to 2 years. Brown rice is neither milled nor polished and has a higher oil or fat content. Therefore, brown rice has a shorter shelf life from 3 to 6 months after its manufacture date.

Another attribute of rice as a convenience product is the cereal grain requires less time to make a buying decision. Shoppers put less time and effort in choosing a relatively lower-cost item like rice compared to higher-valued item like a car or a cellphone that they buy less frequently.

While not requiring complex shopping decisions, there are different kinds of imported rice.

The import data presented in this analysis can be further decomposed into the following types of rice.

  1. Wholly or semi-milled rice (79% of global rice imports)
  2. Broken rice (9%)
  3. Husked or brown rice (7.4%)
  4. Rice still in the husk, paddy or considered as rough (5.1%)

Searchable Table: Rice Imports by Country

The sortable table below showcases marketing intelligence for the top 100 buyers of rice, ranked in descending order starting with the greatest annual sales amount at the 4-digit Harmonized System (HS) code level. For rice, the HS code is 1006.

Also shown is the percentage of the world’s total purchases of imported rice in 2020, as well as the change in those sales from 2019 to 2020.

2Saudi Arabia$1,404,237,0005.6%-0.8%
3United States$1,284,207,0005.1%+18.2%
8United Kingdom$619,909,0002.5%+16.8%
11United Arab Emirates$560,172,0002.2%+4.6%
12South Africa$546,715,0002.2%+21.5%
21South Korea$375,415,0001.5%+36.9%
23Ivory Coast$337,449,0001.4%-44.2%
27Hong Kong$303,555,0001.2%+1.8%
51Sierra Leone$133,759,0000.54%+24.0%
61Papua New Guinea$97,177,0000.39%+18.6%
64Costa Rica$87,709,0000.35%+14.2%
66Czech Republic$79,732,0000.32%+14.0%
67Syrian Arab Republic$73,291,0000.29%-2.6%
71New Zealand$63,465,0000.25%+12.8%
87Democr. Rep. Congo$44,936,0000.18%-10.0%
89El Salvador$44,755,0000.18%+51.0%
91Brunei Darussalam$41,249,0000.17%-5.8%

Among the above 100 global markets, 73 countries increased their spending on imported rice. The 6 strongest gains year over year were posted by Togo (up 940.8%), Zimbabwe (up 110.2%), Afghanistan (up 73.2%), Gabon (up 68%), Morocco (up 67%) and Panama (up 60.5%).

Leading the decliners year over year were Egypt (down -84.1%) and Niger (down -78.2%).

Significant declines for rice imports by value were also experienced in Ghana (down -71.4%), Ivory Coast (down -44.2%), Kuwait (down -40.5%), Iran (down -40%), Tanzania (down -31.5%), Cameroon (down -29.3%) and Iraq (down -25.2%).

Richest Global Markets for Imported Rice

Illustrated below is the market demand for rice imported during 2020 by 30 of world’s richest countries in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per person, according to

Countries are listed in descending order starting with the wealthiest economy in terms of GDP per capita.

  1. Luxembourg: $8.2 million (Up 21.5%)
  2. Singapore: $299.2 million (Up 25.4%)
  3. Ireland: $41.2 million (Up 6.7%)
  4. Qatar: $165.3 million (Up 2.2%)
  5. Macao: $31 million (Down -6.3%)
  6. Switzerland: $94.7 million (Up 7.4%)
  7. Norway: $41.1 million (Up 18.1%)
  8. United States: $1.3 billion (Up 18.2%)
  9. Brunei Darussalam: $41.2 million (Down -5.8%)
  10. Hong Kong: $303.6 million (Up 1.8%)
  11. Denmark: $46.6 million (Up 6.2%)
  12. Netherlands: $311.7 million (Up 12%)
  13. United Arab Emirates: $560.2 million (Up 4.6%)
  14. Taiwan: $70.5 million (Down -4.6%)
  15. Iceland: $3 million (Up 22.2%)
  16. Austria: $58.2 million (Up 2.7%)
  17. Germany: $462.9 million (Up 18.8%)
  18. Sweden: $95.3 million (Up 1.3%)
  19. Australia: $263.2 million (Up 26.8%)
  20. Belgium: $412 million (Up 21.2%)
  21. Finland: $30.7 million (Up 7.6%)
  22. Canada: $445.1 million (Up 7.8%)
  23. Bahrain: $59.1 million (Down -17.5%)
  24. France: $588.1 million (Up 8.8%)
  25. Saudi Arabia: $1.4 billion (Down -0.8%)
  26. United Kingdom: $619.9 million (Up 16.8%)
  27. South Korea: $375.4 million (Up 36.9%)
  28. Malta: $4.6 million (Up 4.2%)
  29. Japan: $503.6 million (Up 2.8%)
  30. New Zealand: $63.5 million (Up 12.8%)

Twenty-five among the above richest economies spent more on imported rice in 2020 compared to 2019. The top gainers were South Korea (up 36.9%), Australia (up 26.8%), Singapore (up 25.4%), Iceland (up 22.2%), Luxembourg (up 21.5%) and Belgium (up 21.2%).

Registering annual declines were 5 relatively wealthy importing nations. These were Bahrain (down -17.5%), Macao (down -6.3%), Brunei Darussalam (down -5.8%), Taiwan (down -4.6%) and Saudi Arabia (down -0.8%).

Top Rice Importers by Tonnage

Shifting the focus to product quantity instead of dollar value, the United States imported an estimated 1.19 million tons of rice in 2020. The latest annual tonnage for rice imported into America represents a 23.4% increase from the 962,437 tons of imported rice bought in 2019 from international suppliers.

The following list displays the total weight of rice bought on international markets by the 10 major importers in 2020. Shown with parentheses is the percentage change in the imported tonnage from 2019 to 2020.

  1. China: 2.9 million tons (up 17% from 2019)
  2. Philippines: 2.1 million tons (down -24.6%)
  3. Benin: 1.6 million tons (up 5.7%)
  4. Saudi Arabia: 1.5 million tons (up 10.2%)
  5. Malaysia: 1.22 million tons (up 25.8%)
  6. United States: 1.19 million tons (up 23.4%)
  7. Iran: 1.11 million tons (down -22.1%)
  8. Iraq: 909,409 tons (down -30.1%)
  9. United Kingdom: 763,161 tons (up 13.6%)
  10. France: 626,578 tons (up 5.4%)

Year over year, the fastest-growing top markets for imported rice as measured by tonnage were the heavily populated nations Malaysia, United States and China.

The severest annual declines by weight were racked up by Iraq, Philippines and Iran.

Unit Costs Paid by Major Rice Importers

Compared to other top rice importers, the United States paid the highest unit cost per ton of imported rice.

The following list is sorted in descending order starting with the greatest unit cost in 2020. Also shown is the percentage change from one year earlier.

  1. United States: US$1,081 per ton (down -4.3% from 2019)
  2. France: $939 (up 3.3%)
  3. Saudi Arabia: $908 (down -9.9%)
  4. United Kingdom: $812 (up 2.8%)
  5. Iran: $794 (down -23.1%)
  6. Iraq: $705 (up 7.1%)
  7. China: $501 (down -0.6%)
  8. Malaysia: $483 (up 3.4%)
  9. Philippines: $413 (up 13.2%)
  10. Benin: $393 (up 5.1%)

America pays more than twice the average price per ton of imported rice than Asian competitors like China, Malaysia and the Philippines.

On a more positive economic note, the US did experience a -4.3% drop in the average price per ton paid in 2020 compared to 2019. Only 3 other top rice importers enjoyed a decline in the average unit cost per ton.

Top 10 US Imported Rice Suppliers

In 2020, the United States of America served as the world’s third-biggest market for imported rice as measured by total sales. America’s top 3 suppliers (Thailand, India, Pakistan) accounted for 86.8% of US imports of rice.

The following countries benefited the most from selling imported rice into the US in 2020.

  1. Thailand: US$753 million (58.6% of US total)
  2. India: $302.9 million (23.6%)
  3. Pakistan: $59.1 million (4.6%)
  4. Brazil: $41.6 million (3.2%)
  5. China: $24.7 million (1.9%)
  6. Italy: $19.1 million (1.5%)
  7. Vietnam: $15.6 million (1.2%)
  8. Canada: $12.6 million (1%)
  9. Argentina: $12.1 million (0.9%)
  10. Spain: $7.1 million (0.6%)

Nine among America’s major suppliers increased their rice sales to the US from 2019 to 2020 with gains led by Brazil (up 99.7%), Argentina (up 96.2%) and Pakistan (up 44.7%).

Year over year, the sole decliner was Spain thanks to its -19% reduction in the value of rice provided to America.

US Duties on Imports from Key Suppliers

The following list of calculated duties for America’s top suppliers of rice is sorted in descending order, starting with the countries to which the US paid the greatest dollar amounts for duties incurred in 2020.

Presented within parentheses is the percentage of the total cost of imported rice from each supplier that requires buyers in the United States to pay duty.

  1. Thailand: $8.9 million (equals 1.3% of rice’s dutiable import value)
  2. India: $4.1 million (1.5%)
  3. China: $1.2 million (5.1%)
  4. Italy: $807,825 (4.7%)
  5. Brazil: $804,263 (2.6%)
  6. Pakistan: $470,773 (1%)
  7. Vietnam: $259,056 (1.9%)
  8. Argentina: $206,507 (2%)
  9. Spain: $168,081 (2.4%)
  10. Canada: $4,982 (1.2%)

The highest duty percentage is 5.1% imposed on rice imported into America from China. In second place is Italy at 4.7%.

America’s largest rice supplier Thailand is subject to a 1.3% duty calculation, higher than only Canada at 1.2% and Pakistan’s lowest duty rate of 1%.

Other Charges on US Rice Imports

Besides duties, importers must pay additional charges like insurance and freight to ensure that their purchases of imported rice are delivered to their scheduled destinations.

Below, you will find a list that displays the total amount of these additional costs including insurance and freight charges for each of America’s top rice suppliers.

  1. Thailand: $58.6 million (Up 21.1% from 2019)
  2. India: $23.9 million (Up 30.1%)
  3. Pakistan: $3.8 million (Up 25.9%)
  4. Brazil: $2.5 million (Up 41.5%)
  5. Italy: $1.85 million (Up 37.4%)
  6. Vietnam: $1.8 million (Up 26.9%)
  7. Argentina: $1.3 million (Up 50%)
  8. China: $358,655 (Up 5.5%)
  9. Canada: $113,715 (Down -19.7%)
  10. Spain: $102,472 (Down -34.3%)

Note that the total additional cost amounts shrank significantly for 2 top rice suppliers, Canada and Spain.

For America’s remaining key rice suppliers, increases in extra costs range from up 5% for China to hefty 41.5% and 50% upticks for South American providers Brazil and Argentina, respectively.

See also

More great research: Best Global Consumer Markets for Selling Imported Gold, Best Global Consumer Markets for Selling Imported Cellphones, Best Global Consumer Markets for Selling Imported Cars


Independent insights and analysis presented in this article are based on researched facts and statistics sourced from the following educational portals.

BoyceWire, Consumer Goods Definition.

Forbes, The Forbes Global 2000 List

Healthline, Does Rice Go Bad? Shelf Life, Expiration Dates, and More.

International Trade Centre, Trade Map.

Investopedia, Consumer Goods, Consumer Staples Definition, Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG).

Richest Country Reports, Top 50 Richest Countries by GDP per Capita.

United States Census Bureau, Foreign Trade State Data.

USITC DataWeb, US Merchandise Trade: Imports for Consumption.

Wikipedia, Rice.

World’s Top Exports, Rice Exports by Country..

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