USDA announced that the government of the Philippines signed its P.L. 480 Title I loan agreement, the second such food aid deal involving rice this year.

The agreement, which covers an $8-million-dollar allocation, is expected to generate sales of about 36,000 metric tons of rice to the government of the Philippines within the next month.

Coupled with the sale to Uzbekistan on June 27 of more than 58,000 metric tons of rice, and an upcoming agreement with Indonesia for more than 80,000 metric tons of rice, the Philippine purchase will secure about half the P.L. 480 food aid tonnage for the year.

These actions are taking place much earlier than in prior years, according to the USA Rice Federation, which says the sales are especially critical to the rice industry in these times.

Weeks of effort

“In a tough year, food aid efforts are coming to fruition. We're pleased that not only are the agreements getting signed earlier, but that the tenders will take place sooner than any time in recent years,” said Jamie Warshaw, chairman of USA Rice's Food Aid Subcommittee and president of Farmers Rice Milling Co. in Lake Charles, La.

Warshaw said the agreements follow weeks of intensive efforts to speed up crucial rice food aid tonnage movement through all major government programs.

“USA Rice played a key role in the expedited movement by working cooperatively with USDA to urge timely action, clearing the way for 300,000 tons of delayed rice food aid overall that will ship over the next few months,” he noted. “An additional 67,000 metric tons already has moved.”

USA Rice members have met with officials at USDA and the U.S. Agency for International Development regarding the urgency of including rice in food aid programming wherever possible and expediting tenders and shipments.

“Our members have also been in constant contact with rice-state legislators about the importance of rice food aid,” a spokesman said. “This resulted in members of Congress looking to government agencies for greater accountability about the timing and urgency of rice food aid. The comprehensive strategy, which also includes working with those in recipient countries such as private voluntary organizations and embassy staff, has helped secure tonnage movement for the year.

Shipment schedule

At the urging of USA Rice, USDA has also released a schedule of anticipated food aid shipments.

“Our initial analysis of the schedule shows that the business is spread out over the next few months, which helps us with immediate tenders and doesn't push all the business to the end of the year,” said Warshaw.

He said USA Rice has not given up the fight to gain additional rice food aid tonnage for the year beyond 367,000 tons. USA Rice's efforts to heighten awareness played a role in the inclusion of 15,000 metric tons of additional rice in a major upcoming food aid package for North Korea. Advocacy efforts also are in process seeking further tonnage for the Philippines, North Korea, Indonesia, and southern Africa.

Besides the P.L. 480 agreement for $ 8 million signed on June 28, the Philippine government has expressed interest in obtaining additional rice through P.L. 480, including 22,000 metric tons of rice under a separate allocation.

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