Survey: Puerto Rican consumers care about country-of-origin rice labeling
|Concern over labeling the Rico brand of rice sold in Puerto Rico has led economists at the University of Arkansas to survey rice-eating consumers in Puerto Rico and find that they cared about whether the rice they are eating comes from the United States or elsewhere.|
Lawton Lanier Nalley, Alvaro Durand-Morat, and Wei Yang surveyed nearly 350 rice-eating consumers to determine the economic impacts of disjunctive marking in Puerto Rico.“
Disjunctive marking, which is illegal in the U.S., is the addition of ‘or’ or ‘and/or’ between country names in COO labels. What is in the bag must be clearly and non-deceptively stated,” the USA Rice Federation noted in a news release.
“More than half of the respondents indicated that origin of rice was important to them and they strongly agreed that rice produced in the U.S. is safe for them to consume,” said Durand-Morat.
“The majority of consumers believed the Rico brand is sourced from Puerto Rico when in fact it has predominantly come from China over the last four years. Our modeling showed that if consumers knew that Rico is sourcing its rice from China, the consumers’ willingness to pay (WTP) for the brand drops by 28%.”
USA Rice noted that in 2019 it accused Puerto Rican importers of Chinese rice of violating U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) COO labelling regulations. Ultimately, one of the main importers of Chinese rice was fined $10,000 by the Department of Consumer Affairs of Puerto Rico for violating the Deceptive Practices and Ads Regulation. After nearly four years, the investigation remains ongoing.“
This report gives economic credence to what we’ve been saying all along — that the U.S. rice industry has earned a premium in this market and Rico is exploiting it with deceptive marketing to the detriment of Puerto Rican rice consumers,” said Peter Bachmann, USA Rice vice president of policy and government affairs.
“We’d like to see COO labelling regulations more stringently enforced by CBP so that other brands cannot monetarily benefit from the good name and values of the United States without exclusively supporting our domestic industry.”
–The Hagstrom Report