U.S. Sen. John Breaux, D-La., says that Coalition Provisional Authority contracts for food should be purchased from coalition partners, a policy consistent with CPA policy for reconstruction projects in other sectors in helping to rebuild postwar Iraq.

Speaking before rice millers and producers at the USA Rice Federation Government Affairs Conference, Breaux said the U.S. government should be actively fighting to help U.S. rice get back into the Iraqi market. “When contracts for food are awarded, those countries that helped in the effort to free Iraq should be the first to provide that aid,” he said.

The USA Rice Federation recently named getting U.S. rice in food aid for the Iraqi people the top priority for 2004. Doing so would mean regaining the U.S. rice industry's former top market. During the 1980s, U.S. rice sales to Iraq averaged 345,000 metric tons annually, with sales exceeding 500,000 metric tons in peak years. The U.S. rice industry lost the market in 1991 as a result of trade sanctions imposed by the United Nations.

In recent years, Iraq's annual rice imports from other world suppliers have averaged a million metric tons.

Breaux's comments underscored USA Rice's effort, realizing the potential of the Iraqi market.

“Iraq is an oil-rich nation that likes American rice,” said Breaux. “We need to get the Bush administration involved in our efforts so that when Iraqis have their own money to spend, they will be free to spend it on U.S. rice.”