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Iraq to increase U.S. rice purchases

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iraq plans to purchase rice on a quarterly basis and has reconfirmed its need to purchase 86,000 metric tons of rice per month to meet consumer demand, says Khalil Assi of the Iraqi Grain Board.

Iraq began to purchase U.S. rice in April 2005 and by the end of the year had purchased over 300,000 metric tons making that country the third-largest importer of U.S. rice in terms of value and the fourth-largest in terms of quantity. U.S rice gained roughly 35 percent of Iraq’s total rice imports in 2005.

“In December 2004, the USA Rice Federation made the resumption of U.S. rice sales to Iraq our number one goal,” said Lee Adams, USA Rice chairman. “This goal has been accomplished with resounding success, and yet there appears to be room for additional growth for U.S. rice exports to Iraq.”

USA Rice has been meeting since February 2004 to make Iraq more knowledgeable about the U.S. rice industry and an efficient purchaser of U.S. rice. ADM, Riceland Foods, The Rice Company and USA Rice staff met recently with the Iraqi Grain Board for an educational meeting to provide its members with detailed information on U.S. rice quality, purchasing and tendering specifications. The group also discussed the possibility of future educational efforts and promotional activities.

“Much work remains to be done, and it is clear that this is an evolutionary process,” said Stuart Proctor, USA Rice president and CEO. “U.S. rice doesn’t have the 80 percent market share that it had during the 1980s, however, with additional informational efforts and promotion activities, U.S. rice exports will continue to grow, making it possible for Iraq to resume its position as the number one import market for U.S. rice.”

U.S. rice exports to Iraq topped 500,000 metric tons in 1988 prior to the U.S. government-imposed embargo on exports to that market.

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