Rural Returns completed its first trial shipment of Sri Lankan Heirloom Rice with the arrival of 660Kg of Pachchaperumal red rice in the Port of Los Angeles on June 2nd, 2010. This completed a process that began with Managing Director of Rural Returns (Guarantee) Limited, Sri Lanka, Chari Ratwatte, bringing 20Kg along with his luggage while visiting the U.S. on business in late April 2010.
The entires process involved with this first shipment - a "large sample" at a total of 730Kg - was a strategic effort to run through the complete value chain from the farm to the store shelf. As expected, we encountered challenges and delays despite the most rigorous efforts in preparation and planning. The 730Kg shipment of retail-ready 1Kg packets was broken up into 20Kg by air in personal luggage; 50Kg by air freight; and 660Kg by ocean freight. This diversified strategy helped Rural Returns have some packets on hand for immediate business development needs, while also testing out the two main shipping methods likely to be used for future commercial shipment.
Ratwatte and DC Jayasundera, CEO of the new Rural Returns Development Organization, U.S.A., coordinated closely throughout the process. Jayasundera handled all U.S. documentation and clearances while Ratwatte did the same in Sri Lanka, apart from coordinating with the Muruthenge Organic Small Farmers' Association, the partner community involved in the cultivation, milling and packaging of this first shipment.
Many more wellwishers supported Rural Returns in the effort as well, including Chairman, J. Charitha Ratwatte Snr. and the wonderful staff at the Sri Lanka Business Development Council.