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California presents the perfect climate for growing premium quality rice thanks to ideal temperatures and pristine water from the nearby Siskiyou and Sierra Nevada mountains. Water management and sustainable supply has been at the forefront of the company’s strategy for years. Ken La Grande, the former chairman of the board for the Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority providing water to over 130,000 acres of irrigated agriculture in the Sacramento Valley, commented, “I’ve been an activist for California water issues for over twenty years; water management is key to any rice grower but in the dry state of California this is all the more important to manage sustainably”.
The careful management of natural resources such as water and minimal use of herbicides and fungicides makes California rice some of the cleanest and safest rice available anywhere in the world. Husbandry of the land and the environment for current and future generations is at the heart of all the LaGrande family does. California rice growers and the Californian Rice Commission have been working on sustainability initiatives for several years with notable successes in land and water use efficiencies, as well as air quality, energy and biodiversity. California rice fields provide more than 300,000 acres of wetland and more than half of the nutritional requirements for the millions of migrating waterfowl using the Pacific Flyway in the Valley every year.
Over the last 20 years the company has developed a substantial business across North America and also exports significant quantities of rice to the UK and Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. As its export markets grew, Sun Valley Rice CEO Ken La Grande made the decision that the company should be located in the regions where the company exports in order to add value to its customers. The ability to respond to customer requests in real time with zero time delay and with Sales, Customer Service, Logistics, and finance staff was paramount to LaGrande and Sun Valley Rice. As part of this strategy, Sun Valley Rice opened an office in the UK in late 2017. Based in Guildford, Sun Valley Rice UK now routinely imports containers into the UK and Europe offering its full range of short and medium grain rice varieties.
‘’Our decision to set up a UK office has proved to be a sound one” says LaGrande. “By physically being in the market, we are more responsive, more dynamic and far more able to manage our UK and European customer needs efficiently and quickly. In addition, we can now anticipate future customer requirements” he added.
The mainstay of Sun Valley’s product line is Calrose. Calrose is a high quality medium grain rice, belonging to the japonica family, which is perfectly suited to most cuisines including Asian, Mediterranean, Mexican and Sushi. The rice is characterised by an attractive, shiny appearance with uniform colouring, consistent kernel size, a sweet aroma, a soft and sticky texture as well as a history of consistency and reliability. Calrose, unlike many other medium grain varieties, maintains its high quality characteristics throughout the crop year and beyond.
In addition, Sun Valley’s warehousing, food quality and safety practices help maintain ideal storage conditions for paddy rice. Unlike practices in other countries and mills, Sun Valley rice is actually stored as paddy (with the husk intact) and milled immediately prior to packing and shipping. This ensures that its customers always receive the freshest and best quality rice available. Sun Valley Rice has maintained its FSSC 22000 certification (GFSI) since March 2015, is Kosher (K-orc) certified, and is a gluten free facility (SVR’s products are certified GF).
In addition to Calrose, Sun Valley offers premium quality brown rice through to selected short grains; such as Koshihikari. Recently Sun Valley has expanded its offer to include a unique, cutting edge sprouted capability and can sprout all of its rice varieties to deliver exceptional wholegrain options to customers. These customers include wholesalers across the UK and Europe as well as ingredient suppliers, food manufacturers and food service groups.
“Despite a raft of uncertainties during a difficult time for the food industry as a whole, all at Sun Valley are excited by what the future offers” says LaGrande. “It is said that in the midst of difficulty lies opportunity and so long as we can continue to supply premium quality products sustainably, we will surely grasp the opportunities that lie ahead”.