Rice is a basic staple in many Middle Eastern countries even though most of the countries do not produce rice; those that do are only able to supply a small portion of demand. Iraq, Iran, and the Arabian peninsula primarily consume long grain rice (both white rice and parboiled), while Jordan, Syria, Israel and West Bank, and Lebanon consume mostly medium grain rice.
The most important market in the region for U.S. rice sales is Iraq. 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.
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 as total U.S. rice sales to Iraq amounted to 93,100 MT in 2016 with a value of $45.9 million. In spite of these positive developments, there continue to be challenges regarding transparency and predictability.
USA Rice Activities
USA Rice participates annually at the Gulfood trade show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Efficient infrastructure (seaports and airports), large free trade zones and a strong business orientation have turned Dubai into an important commercial center for the Middle East and beyond. Gulfood has grown to become 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.