Rice is a staple and is considered essential to the Iraqi diet. Iraq is principally a long grain milled rice market but the Kurdish population in the North prefers medium grain rice. Per capita rice consumption is over 90 lbs per year. Most Iraqis consume rice daily and almost 90 percent of it is imported. Iraq was the U.S.’s 8th largest export market in 2019, bringing in over $70 million of U.S. rice.
The Iraqi Grain Board (IGB) manages approximately 85 percent of all Iraqi rice imports to cover the amount of rice needed for distribution in the Public Distribution System (PDS), which provides Iraqi citizens with a monthly allotment of basic food items, including three kilograms of rice. In 2016, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the Iraqi Ministry of Trade signed a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate tenders for U.S. rice. This has had a positive effect on U.S. rice exports and was extended in 2018 for three additional years. Since the first MOU was signed in 2016, the U.S. has shipped 390,000 tons to Iraq.
USA Rice Activities
USA Rice hosted officials from the IGB in Fall 2019 to Louisiana and then held a follow-up meeting in February 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates to discuss the tender documents and other challenges. USA Rice also exhibits annually at the Gulfood trade show in Dubai which is the largest annual trade show in the world, offering USA Rice the opportunity to conduct trade servicing activities for all countries in the Middle East Area, as well as for North and West Africa.