Nov 05, 2019
SACRAMENTO, CA -- Last week, three senior members of the Turkish Grain Board (TMO), along with an Ankara-based USDA agriculture specialist, visited California and Arkansas rice country on a reverse trade mission aiming to reestablish the once-robust Turkish export market. In the past decade, exports to Turkey have averaged more than 100,000 MT per year, but are now nearly nonexistent due to a variety of geopolitical and economic factors.
During the California portion of the trip, the group met with the California Rice Commission for technical discussions centered on remedying the complications exporters face in the Turkish tender system, and facilitating a compromise between Turkey’s interest in importing paddy rice and the well-established milled rice export industry in California.
The group also visited several mills and met with trading companies. The Deputy General Manager of TMO was very appreciative for the opportunity to meet face-to-face with California exporters and learn how the trading companies and cooperatives operate.
“We are optimistic that solutions discussed in meetings between the California rice industry and the TMO delegation will help reestablish the once strong export market in Turkey,” said Derek Alarcon, Farmers’ Rice Cooperative director of export sales.
In Arkansas, the group met with farmers, millers, and exporters to discuss complicated subjects such as quality concerns, insect testing procedures, and genetically modified (GM) commodities. The Turks were assured that there is no GM rice in the U.S., and discussions of how to avoid cross-contamination during shipping procedures were productive.
“The Arkansas rice industry was thrilled to welcome the delegation from the Turkish Grain Board and establish contacts we will need to create trade relationships in the future,” said Josh Hankins, USA Rice director of grower relations, who accompanied the group as they traveled through Arkansas.
The Director of the TMO Trade Department said it was useful to learn about medium grain rice grown in the South and to share ideas on how to build a relationship between Turkey and the mid-South rice industry.
“Obviously, the size of Turkey’s tariffs has contributed to decreased exports,” said USA Rice Vice President of International Trade Policy Peter Bachmann. “Those tariffs have had a compounding effect on the geopolitical issues which have prevented the Turks from buying U.S. rice over the last 18 months. We’re confident this increased communication will help us reopen that market to our industry.”