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Jazzman competes well in aromatic rice market

If you drive by a field of Jazzman rice, its pleasant, nutty aroma is unmistakable. For farmers, the pleasant fragrance is the smell of money.

The LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station developed Jazzman rice varieties to compete with Thai Jasmine, and the Louisiana farmers who grow it appreciate the economic opportunity.

Of the 600,000 tons of rice imported into the United States annually, more than 60 percent is Thai Jasmine. The Far Eastern variety can only be grown in regions of the world with short day lengths such as Thailand – something not found in Louisiana’s growing season.

But breeding work at the Rice Research Station has led to varieties of rice with taste and smell similar to Jasmine. Jazzman was first produced in 2009. Then an improved version, Jazzman 2, came in 2011. Scientists are now working on a Clearfield version of Jazzman. Clearfield is the rice line developed by the AgCenter that is herbicide-resistant.

The 2012 Jazzman crop is estimated to be between 15,000 and 16,000 acres in Louisiana, and farmers will get a premium for the aromatic rice.

Bobby Hanks, chief executive officer of Louisiana Rice Mill, said Jazzman 2 is proving to be a solid competitor to Thai Jasmine. Louisiana Rice Mill supplies Jazzmen Rice LLC with its supply of Jazzman.

Andrew Wong of the Jazzmen Rice Company said U.S. Jazzman competes with Thai Jasmine in countries where importing U.S. rice is cheaper than importing Thai rice. The U.S. rice has been exported to Canada and France, he said.

Wong’s company, which sells Jazzman rice under the Jazzmen brand, has widespread distribution on the U.S. West Coast. “We will be trying soon to get into the East Coast,” he said. The company participates in culinary trade shows and has attracted the attention of top chefs, including those in New Orleans.

Jazzmen rice is sold in groceries, and institutional food distributors sell it to restaurants. The company has obtained rights to use the image of the late Louis Armstrong in its trademark. “We spend a lot of money on branding, promoting and marketing it,” Wong said.

Falcon Rice Mill of Crowley also sells the Jazzman rice variety.

“We’ve seen increased demand every year. I think we finally have a product that is close to the aromatics,” said Robert Trahan, of Falcon.

Jimmy Hoppe said his sales of Jazzman have increased his rice sales dramatically. “Actually, my sales have about doubled, and I’ve probably picked up a third more customers,” he said.

Hoppe said his farm is represented by a food service company that supplies specialty stores and groceries along the I-10 corridor.

Hoppe also sells directly to customers who visit his farm. “It becomes not only a sale, but actually an opportunity for me to share what goes on at the farm.”

He said it didn’t surprise him to hear from a returning customer that they prefer his rice to Thai Jasmine. Hoppe said he explained to the customer that Thai Jasmine is often blended with non-aromatic, long-grain rice.

Bruce Schultz

Read more about the development of Jazzman rice in Louisiana Agriculture.

The LSU AgCenter is one of 11 institutions of higher education in the Louisiana State University System. Headquartered in Baton Rouge, it provides educational services in every parish and conducts research that contributes to the economic development of the state. The LSU AgCenter does not grant degrees nor benefit from student tuition and fee increases. The LSU AgCenter plays an integral role in supporting agricultural industries, enhancing the environment, and improving the quality of life through its 4-H youth, family and community programs.

Last Updated: 8/17/2012 3:06:00 PM

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