WASHINGTON, DC – A USA Rice delegation representing four of the largest U.S. long grain rice exporters met here last week for high-level talks with Iraq’s acting Minister of Trade, Dr. Salman Al-Jumaili. The delegation focused its discussions with the Minister on gaining additional access to Iraq for U.S.-grown rice under the current U.S.-Iraq Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
Members also engaged in direct negotiations with Ministry of Trade officials over the weekend regarding additional sales of U.S. grown rice to this high-potential Middle East market.
The meeting with Minister Al-Jumaili follows a precedent-setting sale of 32,000 MT of U.S. long grain rice in late May under the MOU – the first sale since this bilateral agreement was signed a year ago.
“We were honored to meet with the Iraqi Minister and his team this week in the nation’s capital,” said Terry Harris, Riceland Foods senior vice president and chair of the USA Rice Europe, Africa, and Middle East Promotion Subcommittee. “The fact that the Minister met directly with our delegation demonstrated his commitment to the MOU process, as well as his willingness to move Iraq towards a more open and transparent tendering system. This can only lead to improvements in our access to the Iraqi market for U.S.-grown rice.”
The meetings were scheduled as part of Minister Al-Jamaili’s whirlwind visit to the United States to discuss trade issues with senior Trump Administration officials at the Commerce and State Departments and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
With a reported $200 million in funds for direct rice and wheat purchases, the Minister’s seven-hour meeting with rice and wheat industry leaders was a clear indication of the high priority Iraq has placed on procuring these key U.S. commodities for its population.
“Our goal was to support a productive dialogue between the Iraqi Trade Minister and our members, all of whom are keen to sell more U.S. grown rice to Iraq,” said Hugh Maginnis, USA Rice vice president international. “I believe we accomplished that goal, and if these meetings result in additional sales, I told the Minister it would be icing on the cake."