Rice market

International trade, using Italy as an example

The major rice exchange in Italy is based in Vercelli, Piemont. This is hardly surprising, since Vercelli is regarded as being the ‘rice capital’ of Italy. It owes this honour largely to its geographical position, lying in the centre of a region which became one of the most important and bountiful rice-growing areas with the construction of the legendary canale cavour between 1860 and 1866.

The rice exchange, at the heart of which lies not only the actual trading with rice, but also the entire prosperity of the region - being a measuring stick for all connected economic life - is open Tuesdays and Fridays. Rice producers from all over the country flock to the exchange, greeting friends, dealers and acquaintances. And they chat with much southern charm and temperament about politics, prices, taxes, weather, harvests etc. The "hour of truth" then strikes on the first floor of the exchange, where a "mini rice mill" takes pride of place. Exactly one hundred grams of each sample is weighed out here, de-husked, cleaned, polished and sorted with the relevant machines according to length and width. The weight of the ‘yield’ - generally between 70 and 75g - expressed as a percentage, is the net yield to be expected from this batch of rice.


The decisive examination which the rice sample has to stand is the scrutiny under the experienced and sharp eyes of the buyer. He lets the grains run through his fingers time and again, rolls them between his thumb and forefinger, pokes his hands into piles of rice, searching for grains of inferior form or colour. And after this thorough examination, the most important part of the deal has to be negotiated: the price. The average price for each variety gradually finds its level in the course of the trading day, and is checked by a commission of experts every Tuesday, to be approved as a price guide-line for Italian rice.