The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has signed an agreement with Chinese officials to enable the former to begin rice exports to China for the first time ever.

Officials from both countries signed this agreement at the bilateral trade meetings held in Washington DC.

US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said: “This is another great day for US agriculture and, in particular, for our rice growers and millers, who can now look forward to gaining access to the Chinese market.

“This market represents an exceptional opportunity today, with enormous potential for growth in the future.

“The agreement with China has been in the works for more than a decade and I’m pleased to see it finally come to fruition, especially knowing how greatly it will benefit our growers and industry."

“This market represents an exceptional opportunity today, with enormous potential for growth in the future."

China is one of the largest producer and consumer of rice in the world.

The new protocol agreement will provide the US rice industry with a platform to access the Chinese market, as well as explore new export opportunities.

The exports are expected to begin after the completion of an audit of rice facilities in the US by China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

The decision was welcomed by the US Rice Producers Association (USRPA), which represents rice producers in Arkansas,California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas.

The organisation plans to work with the US rice producers and the respective government authorities in preparation for selling rice to China.