NEW ORLEANS, LA - The Rice Advisory Committee of the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation (LAFBF) held its annual meeting in conjunction with the 94th
annual LAFBF convention here on Saturday. USA Rice's Chief Operating Officer Bob Cummings updated attendees on a range of trade policy issues, including challenges in key Louisiana rice export markets and the status of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations.
Cummings noted that Mexico remains the number one U.S. rice export market and that milled rice is increasing as a share of exports. He noted that the U.S. enjoys an 83% market share, but that could change due to increasing competitiveness of Vietnamese rice if the TPP agreement is implemented. He indicated that although milled rice imports are increasing in Mexico, Haiti remains the largest export market for U.S. milled rice.
The U.S. agreement with Colombia was held up as an example of a well-negotiated and smartly-executed free trade agreement, but noted the need to resolve an existing phytosanitary restriction on imports of paddy rice, and secure year-round access to the lucrative market. Colombia is the third largest U.S. rice export market with 2015 Louisiana exports valued at approximately $2.6 million.
Cummings reported that opening the Cuban market remains a top priority for USA Rice noting that its efforts to reestablish trade with the island nation began in 1999 when John Denison, a past chairman of the LAFBF Rice Advisory Committee, was chairing USA Rice.
According to Cummings, a new Memorandum of Understanding between USA Rice and the Government of Cuba is being finalized that outlines technical exchanges and regular meetings and consultations between the parties that will pave the way for advantageous market positions once trade between the countries has been normalized.
Cummings also shared his insights on other markets and topics of interest, including Iraq, ("a mess politically and economically"), China, ("mills are ready, waiting for the green light"), TPP, ("more clarification on details is needed"), and TTIP ("possibly the best hope for U.S. rice to get back into the European Union").
Cummings closed his presentation with an update on the use of unfair domestic and export subsidies by advanced developing countries. He noted that the Obama Administration is moving in the World Trade Organization to take these nations to task.
"We greatly appreciate Bob taking time to come to New Orleans to bring us up to speed on trade policy that impacts each of us," said Donald Berken, LAFBF rice advisory committee chairman. "The news was a mixed bag, but I see positive developments and good opportunities for Louisiana rice in his report."