Demand climbs for organic rice – and its growers
The already-strong market for California rice has added more muscle with Los Angeles-based Sage V Foods looking for growers here to convert land to grow organic rice for prices double those paid for conventional rice.
Lance Glassgow, operations manager for Sage V in Northern California with an office in Colusa County, said the demand for organic rice is extraordinary.
"It's exploding," he said. "When you can't get enough of something, the price is going to go up."
Several decades ago, the rice market was simple, Glassgow added.
"Rice is rice is rice is rice," he said of how things once were.
But Sage V at its plant in Arkansas now cooks and freezes organic brown rice sold to grocery stores under the Rice Expressions brand. Raley's in Yuba City, along with Trader Joe and Whole Foods stores, sell Rice Expressions, Glassgow said.
Sage V seeks long-term relationships with new growers willing to transition conventional acreage to organic use. The company has been buying organic rice in California for more than 10 years.
This region and its snow-fed Sierra Nevada water supply grows great rice, Glassgow said.
"We live in this almost Shangri-La," Glassgow said. "It's a great a place to grow."
"California grows the highest quality product in the world," he added.
Glassgow said he isn't sure what's behind the boom in demand for organic rice. But greater public interest in where their food comes from and the success of Whole Foods-style stores is likely part of the reason, he said.
"Boutique foods" are proving popular, Glasgow said, noting that different wheat varieties are grown for specialty breads.
He said brown rice, which gets its color from the husk, has a crunch and a nut-like quality.
An employee at New Earth Market in Yuba City said "most anything organic" is in demand at the store.
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