After 90 Years, Riceland Still Powers Arkansas Rice Industry

by Luke Jones  on Monday, May. 21, 2012 12:00 am  

Locals call Riceland Foods Inc. of Stuttgart a cornerstone for the economy of its hometown and the state's rice industry as a whole.

"It's the one thing we can always count on," said Stephen Bell, executive director of the Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce. "We're able to do a lot of economic development and recruitment with the knowledge that we're starting out with a solid base."

Riceland's not going away, Bell said, and that seems evident in the company's performance. Bill Reed, vice president of corporate communications, said the company had sales of $1.1 billion during its fiscal year that ended July 31.

(Click here for a list of the largest private companies in southeast Arkansas.)

"Distributions to our farmer members were $692 million," Reed said, adding that those numbers were about the same as fiscal 2010.

Reed said each year Riceland's members deliver about 100 million bushels of grain to the cooperative's 32 grain facilities. More than 1,500 employees work for Riceland, with 1,000 in Stuttgart alone. Reed said Riceland would begin marketing field corn for livestock and poultry later this year. He said the decision to market corn was based on increased acreage in southern Arkansas. It will mostly be marketed in Riceland's southern receiving area near Dumas and McGehee.

(Click here for a sidebar on how Riceland's business model works.)

"Our business strategy is growth with two key components," Reed said. "One is growing our core business of grain orientation and storage, rice milling and soybean processing. The second is to develop value products with greater growth margins to build on our success."

Warren Carter, director of commodities and regulatory affairs at Arkansas Farm Bureau, said Riceland and Producers Rice Mill Inc., also in Stuttgart and also one of the state's largest private companies, account for about 70 percent of the rice purchased in the state.

"Riceland is certainly the largest rice miller in the country," Carter said, "possibly one of the largest, if not the largest, in the world."

Carter said the state had about 3 million acres of soybeans in the state, with rice filling up to 1.5 million acres.

"We've seen a little bit of a decline in acreage," Carter said. "We typically run about a million and a half acres, but last year with flooding it got too late to plant rice. We don't know what the final count was, but it's still in the neighborhood of 1.1 million."



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