• USA Rice Members to State Department: “Keep Pressure on Middle East”

    by Deborah Willenborg | Feb 15, 2017
    Secretary Joseph Pennington
    WASHINGTON, DC -- Yesterday, USA Rice members met key Iraq policymakers at the State Department to get an update on the Iraqi rice tendering process under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the U.S. and Iraq.  Members reminded officials of the priority the industry places on Iraq as a future market.
    The group was hosted by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq Joseph Pennington, who provided details on the current political and economic situation in Iraq, and also briefed members on the status of current negotiations, and prospects for moving forward on export sales of U.S. rice.  

    The most recent tender was pulled and never filled, but State Department officials are hopeful it will be reissued soon as negotiations are ongoing on price and payment terms.  The last time U.S. rice was sold in Iraq was early 2016 when Iraq purchased 90,000 MT.  

    “Iraq is a crucially important market for us,” said USA Rice Chairman Brian King who attended the meeting.  “Our members were able to impress upon Secretary Pennington and his team how important it is to have a fair, open, and transparent tendering system in Iraq so that the U.S. rice industry can compete and be successful in Iraq.  We greatly appreciate the strong support of the State Department in Washington, as well as Ambassador Douglas Silliman in Baghdad, in our continued efforts to press the case with Iraq for a successful tender that leads to sales of U.S. rice.”   

    Also participating in the meeting was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran Christopher Backemeyer, who said that while the outlook for Iran was less than optimistic, there appears to be interest in U.S. rice from private traders and that, with future improvements in the political environment, the potential for trade is there. 

  • U.S. and Iraq Sign Rice MOU

    by Deborah Willenborg | Jul 13, 2016
    Ambassador Stuart Jones (center) and
    Iraqi Trade Minister Salman al-Jumayli (right)
    MOU Iraq
    BAGHDAD, IRAQ - This morning U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Iraq's Trade Minister Salman al-Jumayli that provides new opportunities for U.S. rice to be purchased for the food ration system here.
    Under the agreement, the government of Iraq will enter into two three-month supply contracts with U.S. rice suppliers.  The Ministry of Trade will save money by purchasing competitively-priced U.S. rice and will be able to count on reliable deliveries.  In addition, the U.S. embassy will supply technical assistance to the Ministry on U.S. rice industry standards, export technology, and pricing methods.
    "This is a win for both the United States and Iraq," Ambassador Jones said.  "This agreement establishes the U.S. as a preferred rice supplier for major tenders for the food distribution system.  We have been working closely with the USA Rice Federation to break into the Iraqi market, and I am pleased that USA Rice's representative attended today's signing ceremony."
    "This is quite gratifying after the tremendous amount of work that has gone into this on both sides of the Atlantic," said Betsy Ward, president & CEO of USA Rice.  "Ambassador Jones and his staff have been excellent advocates for U.S. rice, and at home Senator John Boozman (R-AR), Congressman Rick Crawford (R-AR), Congressman Charles Boustany (R-LA), Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO), and others helped us keep a focus on this critical market as we faced setbacks here last year.  We appreciate all they've done for our industry and look forward to regular shipments of U.S. rice going to the people of Iraq."
  • Shifting Sands in Iraq

    by Colleen Klem | Apr 04, 2016
    IP- Shifting Sands in Iraq 160404

    ARLINGTON, VA - Against a backdrop of an erratic tendering process in Iraq that has seen price competitive bids and even country specific tenders failing in recent months, the news now coming out of Baghdad is that a planned tender has been canceled.

    It seems that the entire tendering process is being abandoned in place of a closed, direct negotiation between the Ministry of Trade and companies interested in selling rice to Iraq.

    "We have found over time the open and transparent tender system to be neither open nor transparent, and it hadn't worked well for U.S. origin rice anyway," said Jim Guinn, vice president of international promotion for USA Rice.  "Reverting to a non-public system makes it that much more difficult."

    Guinn said USA Rice had been working with the Grain Board of Iraq and the Ministry of Trade directly on many occasions, hosting technical workshops in the Middle East and sponsoring tours of U.S. rice country. 

    "We hired a consultant on the ground in Baghdad and were pleased to see the U.S. embassy staff remaining engaged at very high and direct levels," Guinn said. "We thought we were making progress and would soon be able to count on this large market for the ample stocks currently on hand and the expected large crop in the U.S. this year."

    Guinn said the next steps will be to understand the implications of this new bidding process for U.S. rice exporters.

    "We are not giving up on this market, no matter how difficult they appear to be making it," he said.

  • Iraq Update: Chaos Still Reigns

    by Deborah Willenborg | Oct 19, 2015
    BAGHDAD, IRAQ – Amid reports of corruption centered around rice tenders conducted by the Iraqi Minister of Trade (MoT), USA Rice has learned a court order was issued over the weekend to arrest the Iraqi Trade Minister and his brother to be investigated for corruption.  It remains unclear how this latest shake up will affect the pending or future tenders.  A new tender that was to be announced today has been postponed and, according to the Director General of the Grain Board of Iraq, a new tender will be issued either later this week or next regardless of this new situation.  

    USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward said, “At this point, USA Rice will await further guidance from our consultant and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad before proceeding with plans for a visit by members of the Ministry of Trade or the Grain Board.”
  • U.S. Rice Sale Lost Amongst Chaos at Iraqi Ministry of Trade

    by Deborah Willenborg | Oct 16, 2015
    Well, here's another nice mess
     Iraq Chaos, Stan Laurel Scratching Head
    BAGHDAD, IRAQ – Yesterday USA Rice learned that Iraq’s Ministry of Trade (MoT) cancelled the sale of 30,000 MT of U.S. rice that was awarded under the last tender.  This move was anticipated because the U.S.-origin award was made to an Indian company with no previous record of exporting U.S. rice and at a bid price well below offers of U.S. rice from a U.S. firm and a U.K. firm.  The MoT retained the award of 50,000 MT of Indian-origin rice bid by a second Indian company.

    Because the MoT cancelled the sale, the Indian company did not lose their performance bond of 1 percent of the sale amount (estimated at $168,000).  This is very convoluted and one can speculate how this situation unfolded, but the end result is a U.S. rice sale was lost on what appears to be less than commercial considerations.

    This comes on the heels of reports of accusations of corruption leading to a major shakeup at the MoT and the Grain Board.  Three members of the contracts committee at the MoT have reportedly been placed in retirement and the Prime Minister’s office is installing a new contracts committee.  The Director General of the Grain Board, who was there on an interim basis, has left his position.  There are probably other changes in the works or happening under the radar.  There are reports of ongoing investigations, but these cannot be confirmed.

    “We understand that a new tender will be announced on Monday, October 19,” said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward.  “We will remain engaged with the MoT through our consultant and with the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to provide information and advocate for purchases of U.S. rice on this upcoming tender.”
  • Latest Iraqi Rice Tender Results Confusing at Best

    by Deborah Willenborg | Oct 06, 2015
    Something doesn't add up
    Confused math genius
    BAGHDAD, IRAQ – USA Rice learned today that in the latest tender here, which has been delayed numerous times, Iraq purchased 80,000 MT of rice, 30,000 MT of which was U.S. origin.  The U.S. sale was from an India-based company, Jindal Industries, at an offered price of $559 per metric ton CIF.  The price seems unrealistic given the prices offered by the two western companies of $639 and $659 per ton CIF.  There were two other offers of U.S.-origin from India-based companies ranging in price from $559 to $561 per ton CIF.

    Yesterday, both the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Stuart Jones, at a meeting with the Minister of Trade, and USA Rice consultant, Duraid Al Soufi, in his discussion with the Grain Board of Iraq, pointed out this discrepancy and voiced concern about the ability of these companies to perform at the offered prices.  

    “USA Rice stays in almost constant contact with Iraq’s Grain Board and Ministry of Trade, and Ambassador Jones remains engaged with the Ministry on behalf of U.S. rice,” said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward.  “That engagement is intended to build confidence in the United States as a reliable supplier of rice and information about the U.S. rice market and rice markets in general.”

    “Our ultimate goal,” Ward said, “is to see U.S. rice participate on a regular basis in Iraqi public tenders and have consistent sales to this large import market.”
  • Selling Rice Amidst Chaos in Iraq

    by Deborah Willenborg | Sep 23, 2015
    The road ahead?
    Crazy road sign
    BAGHDAD, IRAQ – Iraq’s public tendering system is a mess.  The Iraqi Grain Board (IGB) has extended, or “renewed,” tenders on several occasions, most recently with the current tender initially set to close on September 9, but now extended until September 29.  The IGB’s contracts committee has not met as scheduled, leading to the current delay.  

    Adding to the turmoil are unrealistic offers of U.S. origin rice from Indian companies.  There were four offers of U.S. rice in the current tender, three of which were from India-based companies that are reportedly not among the first tier of Indian exporters.  One of the companies has a history of providing basmati rice to Iraq under public tenders; the other two are either small time exporters or serve as an export front for a miller (typically Indian millers register more than a few companies as exporters and use them specifically where government contracts are involved).  Finally, we learned earlier today that a new Trade Minister has reportedly been named.

    To say the least, a difficult market to navigate, but navigate it USA Rice will.
    “USA Rice remains engaged with the Trade Ministry through several channels, including the U.S. Embassy here, to ensure U.S. origin rice gets fair consideration under the public tendering system,” said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward.  “If indeed a new minister has been named, we will redouble our efforts to develop meaningful relationships with the Minister as well as members of the Grain Board, which is also likely to see some changes in personnel.  Obviously, we can’t control the outcome of this or future tenders, but we will make every effort to keep the spotlight on U.S. rice as a viable option for purchase by Iraq.”
  • USA Rice, Members, Iraqi Trade Minister Talk Markets

    by Colleen Klem | Jul 27, 2015
    Presenting market realities
    IP-Meeting with Iraqi Trade Minister-150727 

    AMMAN, JORDAN -- In a continued effort to keep U.S. rice competitive in the Iraqi market, USA Rice members met last week with the Iraqi Trade Minister and his staff to discuss requirements and expectations surrounding that country's public tender process.  Iraq imports approximately 1.4 million MT of rice annually and the Iraqi Grain Board purchases nearly all imports via a public tendering process. 

    The past year has seen both positive trade results, including a recent sale of 60,000 MT of U.S. long grain rice, but also frustration when U.S. tenders fail even while we remain price competitive vis-à-vis other South American origins.

    The meeting with the Trade Minister was intended to better understand the tendering process and the rationale for certain requirements contained in the tender documents.  In addition to USA Rice members and staff, USDA/FAS Minister Counselor for Iraq Ron Verdonk attended the meeting.  USDA and the U.S. Department of State have been extremely engaged and helpful to the U.S. rice industry as we try to gain reliable and consistent access to the Iraqi rice market.

    The U.S. team also reiterated a long-standing invitation for the Trade Minister and members of the Grain Board to visit rice country in the United States this summer.  The Minister has indicated that he will try to schedule a visit before September and USA Rice will develop an appropriate itinerary to accommodate the Minister's schedule.  

  • U.S. Rice Heading to Iraq Again

    by Colleen Klem | Jul 09, 2015
    Back in Iraq
     Back in Iraq
    DALLAS, TEXAS -- After being excluded from several recent bids for rice, U.S-grown rice is once again heading to Iraq.
    USA Rice is reporting that the United States has been awarded a contract for 60,000 metric tons of white rice to be shipped during August.
    "Finally winning another sale here is quite gratifying for all the work we've put in on this," said Betsy Ward, President & CEO of USA Rice.  "After being passed over several times, despite competitive bids, we raised concerns and objections to the highest levels in the U.S. State Department and with the Iraqi government.  We appreciate the hard work put in by the State Department and others on behalf of the U.S. industry."

  • Field Day Features USA Rice Presentations

    by Colleen Klem | Jul 02, 2015
     Rice farmer Ray Stoesser (l) in talks with USA Rice's Ben Mosely
    EAGLE LAKE, TX -- USA Rice staff Betsy Ward and Ben Mosely addressed Texas farmers at the dinner and program following the Eagle Lake Rice Field Day this week. 
    Ward gave an overview of USA Rice work on behalf of rice farmers and specifically addressed trade issues critical to the rice industry like the TPP negotiations, Iraq, China, and domestic and international promotion initiatives. 
    Mosely outlined USA Rice's work with Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on implementation of the farm bill, and plans to submit a pre-proposal next week for a small reservoir here as part of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).  The project will be executed in cooperation with Ducks Unlimited and the Lower Colorado River Authority, among several other partners, as a way to reduce groundwater usage on rice fields and in managed waterfowl habitat.
    "Visiting farmers helps us develop our message to Congress and federal agencies," said Ward.  "Rice is a small commodity and our goal is to speak to policymakers and influencers with one voice so that the industry delivers a strong, clear message.  We want to keep fighting above our weight class for farmers in Texas and across the rice states."
    Ward and Mosely also answered questions on recent changes to farm policy and trade from members of the Texas Rice Producers' Legislative Group and the Texas Rice Producers' Board and heard from both groups about the important issues on the ground.

  • USA Rice Engages Local Help to Navigate Iraq

    by Deborah Willenborg | Jun 22, 2015
    Iraqi ports of entry
    Iraqi Ports Map
    ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA -- USA Rice has hired a consultant in Baghdad to represent the interests of the U.S. rice industry before the Ministry of Trade and the Grain Board of Iraq that issues public tenders for the purchase of rice on the international market.  USA Rice has been engaged with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones, the Department of State, and the Foreign Agricultural staff in Washington to make the case for U.S. rice to the Ministry.  

    “The hiring of a local consultant who is a native speaker is the next logical step in the process of establishing consistent lines of communication and assuring fair treatment of U.S. offers on the current and future tenders,” said Hartwig Schmidt, USA Rice regional director, international market development.

    The consultant, Duraid Al Soufi, met with the Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Trade Minister yesterday and has an appointment to meet the Minister this weekend.  

    There is currently an active tender for purchasing 30,000 MT of rice which closes on June 28.  Iraq usually tenders for a minimum of 30,000 MT, but more often than not purchases significantly more than the minimum on each tender.  

    Iraq imports nearly 1.5 million MT of rice annually.  The U.S. is competitive with other rice exporters in the Western Hemisphere, and if treated equitably should win a portion of the current tender.

    Contact:  Jim Guinn (703) 236-1474

  • World Market Price Subcommittee Talks Acreage, Iraq, and Cuba

    by User Not Found | May 13, 2015
    USA Rice's Betsy Ward (l.) and Sarah Moran literally talk Turkey with The Rice Trading Company CEO Jay Kapila.
    WASHINGTON, DC -- The World Market Price Subcommittee met here this morning with representatives from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the Economic Research Service (ERS), and the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).  

    Members noted that rice acres in California may be below those indicated in the NASS Prospective Plantings report issued this spring. 

    Members also reviewed NASS rice price reporting questionnaires. NASS reiterated that it is looking only for reported transactions of rough rice at the point of first sale, excluding transportation and other charges from farmers’ bins to the point of sale.  However, NASS does not adjust data received on rough rice purchases.  Subcommittee members agreed that this explanation provided more clarity about the reporting of rough rice transactions at the first point of sale.

    Discussions with representatives of FAS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) focused on trade with Cuba and Turkey, and the U.S. rice industry’s ongoing difficulty with the lack of transparency and predictability in Iraq’s rice tender process.  

    “We’ve started the process of looking for an Iraqi contractor to assist our efforts on the ground in Baghdad,” said USA Rice COO Bob Cummings.  “This is a recommendation that we received during our meeting last week in Washington with the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Stuart Jones, and we believe it has merit and worth pursuing.  We need to look at all options that can help us return Iraq as a steady customer for U.S. rice.”

    Chairman Keith Glover said, “This was a very positive meeting, with a lot of productive conversation.  And, as always, we appreciate USDA’s participation.”

    The next World Market Price Subcommittee meeting will be in October. 

    Contact:  Kristen Dayton (703) 236-1464
  • USA Rice Meets with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq

    by User Not Found | May 11, 2015
    Stuart Jones, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq
    US Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones
    WASHINGTON, DC -- USA Rice Chairman Dow Brantley led a delegation of members and staff on Friday in a meeting with Stuart Jones, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, to discuss strategy for returning Iraq as a steady customer for U.S. rice.  

    “We have a large crop to move and Iraq is a traditional source of large demand for long grain rice,” said Brantley, a rice farmer from England, Arkansas. “Ambassador Jones has been tireless in support of U.S. rice, but staff turnover at the Grain Board of Iraq and the Ministry of Trade, as well as the unstable political situation in the country have made it nearly impossible for us to be successful there.”

    USA Rice and the U.S. government continue with a full court press since Iraq began purchasing rice from non-U.S. origins in the Western Hemisphere at prices sometimes $45 per metric ton more than offered from the United States. 

    Ambassador Jones stressed that everyone at the embassy in Baghdad have become rice experts and expressed his appreciation for all the assistance USA Rice has provided to his team on the ground there.

    “It is clear that Ambassador Jones has made educating the Iraqi government about the competitiveness of U.S. rice and the importance of operating a transparent and open tender process a top priority issue,” said Betsy Ward, USA Rice President and CEO, who also attended the meeting.

    Contact:  Bob Cummings (703) 236-1473
  • Iraq Grain Tender Canceled, USA Rice to Meet with U.S. Ambassador

    by User Not Found | May 07, 2015
    Not U.S. so not the best
     Iraq Grain Tender
    ARLINGTON, VA – Earlier this week, in a move that was only mildly surprising, the Iraqi Grain Board canceled their current tender request without explanation or fanfare. 
    “The only thing we can predict with any accuracy in this market is the total unpredictability of this market,” said Betsy Ward, president & CEO of USA Rice. 

    Ward said that although the U.S. bids are very competitive, and despite regular contact between the government of Iraq, the U.S. government, and USA Rice, she thinks it could be a long time before U.S. rice is sold with any consistency in this country unless something changes dramatically.

    “Frankly, we’re disheartened by the lack of progress we’re able to make with the Iraqi Grain Board,” she added.  “We know our quality and logistics are better, and our prices are lower than South American origins, so one can only speculate as to why they aren’t buying U.S. rice.”

    Ward will raise these concerns in what promises to be a frank meeting in Washington tomorrow with the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Stuart Jones.

    “We’re going to share with the Ambassador what we’re experiencing here, and we look forward to hearing his take on events and market realities in-country and maybe get a clearer picture of what we can expect in the near term,” Ward added.

    Contact:  Michael Klein (703) 236-1458