(Adds details on U.S.-China trade, rice prices, byline)
CHICAGO, July 20 (Reuters) - China officials have agreed to allow imports of U.S. rice for the first time ever, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Thursday.
The move would give U.S. farmers access to the world's biggest rice consumer, with China importing about 5 million tonnes last year, Perdue said in a statement.
"We waited a decade for the protocol to be signed and our members are anxious to meet the demand of China's consumers for safe, high-quality U.S. rice," USA Rice President Betsy Ward said in a statement, adding that China consumes the equivalent of the entire U.S. rice crop every 13 days.
The announcement was another sign of strengthening relations on agriculture trade between the United States and China under U.S. President Donald Trump, despite disagreements in other areas such as steel.
China last month resumed imports of U.S. beef for the first time since 2003. Last week, Chinese buyers inked deals valued at about $5 billion during a ceremony in Iowa to buy 12.53 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans and 371 tonnes of beef and pork.
U.S. rice futures turned higher after the announcement, rising about 3.5 cents to $11.90 per cwt in late morning trade.
(Reporting by Michael Hirtzer; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)