USA Rice Promotes Cochran Bipartisan Letter on Iraqi Rice Purchases
WASHINGTON, DC -- (January 23, 2015) -- This week, the USA Rice Federation encouraged Members of Congress to sign on to a letter written by Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to help America's rice farmers improve existing trade relations with the Iraqi Grain Board (IGB).
The final letter was sent today with all six rice producing states represented by the 36 signatories. Thirteen Senators and 23 House Members called on Secretary Kerry to see to it U.S. rice producers are fairly considered to win Iraqi business.
Despite years of effort to rebuild commercial relationships with the IGB, Iraq has inexplicably failed in several recent tenders to purchase competitively-priced U.S. rice. And a new tender opens this weekend.
"While American exporters have continued to offer competitive bids, the [Iraqi Grain] Board has lately chosen higher-priced non-American bids," the letter reads. "We recognize Iraq's prerogative to make these types of decisions, but it serves no purpose to discriminate against competitively-priced U.S.rice..."
"We've lost out on three of the last four tenders despite prices nearly $50 per metric ton below the winning South American bids with zero explanation from the IGB," said USA Rice Federation President & CEO Betsy Ward. "We believe the U.S. government needs to engage directly with Iraq's Minister of Trade to get to the bottom of this. Senator Cochran agreed wholeheartedly and spearheaded the effort on the Hill to focus Secretary Kerry on this issue."
"Iraq is a large rice import market, purchasing just under 1.5 million metric tons annually," said Dow Brantley, an Arkansas rice farmer and chairman of USA Rice. "We have the high quality crop at the right price to meet Iraqi demand, but if they keep ignoring our bids, it's going to present problems down the line for rice producers and millers, especially in the mid-South."
The IGB purchases nearly all imports via a public tendering process and has issued a 30,000 mt tender which will be open for bids on January 25, 2015.
Photo caption: Senator Cochran