Arkansas is known as the largest rice-producing state in the country, and typically the name “Riceland” goes along with that distinction. But Riceland — No. 5 among the state’s largest private companies with revenue of $1.3 billion last fiscal year — isn’t the only large, farmer-owned rice miller in the state.
Producers Rice Mill, Riceland’s neighbor in Stuttgart, is also one of the largest privately owned companies in Arkansas: No. 18 with revenue of $568.5 million in the fiscal year that ended July 31, 2013.
Producers was formed in 1943 and is owned by about 2,000 farmers, compared with Riceland’s 5,500. The company is an important employer for the region and has around 500 workers. Riceland, by comparison, has about 1,500.
Since Producers began in Stuttgart, it’s expanded to 11 locations throughout eastern Arkansas and western Mississippi. It manufactures milled rice, parboiled rice, brown rice, instant rice and rice flour.
In its first year, Producers milled 143,500 bushels and had assets of $125,000. By 2004, it was up to 14 million bushels per year. Through the decades it expanded in Stuttgart and added locations in Wynne, DeWitt, Eudora, Fair Oaks, Marianna, Pine Bluff, Wilmot, Wilson and Yellow Bend, as well as a large plant in Greenville, Mississippi.
Now the company handles between 60 million and 65 million bushels of rice per year, said Keith Glover, who has served as chief executive officer since 1988.
“That’s a little bit over 20 percent of the state’s rice crop,” he said. “Riceland is the biggest rice company in the U.S., and we’d be second.”
Producers and Riceland are very similar; Glover said the latter is larger simply by virtue of having started earlier.
“We do compete. We have customers we sell rice to, and many of those customers are also buying from [Riceland] as well,” Glover said. “But a lot of customers really want two suppliers. They don’t want to have all their eggs in one basket, so to speak, and many times for a particular customer we might be a primary supplier, and they’re the backup, and vice versa. That’s just kind of the way it works out.”
Producers provides two services to farmers: milling and marketing.
“Farmers grow rice, and they deliver it,” Glover said. “We provide a service to them in the fall, handling their harvest and storing rice. Our other function is the marketing of the rice for them.”
The company sells to retail establishments as well as food service and industrial sectors, where broken rice is used in the pet food industry. Glover said these three segments are fairly equal in the company’s business model.