Members of the House Rice Caucus recently requested the assistance of Iraq's Trade Minister, Khair Alla Babaker, in facilitating assistance between the government of Iraq and the U.S. rice industry to build a stronger trading relationship. In a Feb. 21 letter to the Minister, 12 U.S. Representatives said the U.S. rice industry would be "very capable of meeting Iraq's rice import requirements under generally-accepted commercial trade standards."

Lawmakers encouraged Babaker and the Iraqi government to pay close attention to the quality specifications that Iraq sets for imported rice, including grain length, chalk content, and prebagged delivery. "As we understand, Iraq's quality terms are very stringent relative to chalk content and brokens," they said, adding that most other foreign markets allow bagging at destination.  Unreasonable quality terms increase shippers' risk thereby creating a competitive disadvantage, the letter says.

The U.S. rice industry has worked regularly with Iraq's Grain Board to establish and operate a commercial market, including conducting numerous meetings and workshops.  At one time, Iraq represented the largest market for U.S. rice.

The House Rice Caucus is co-chaired by Reps. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) and Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.).  

The USA Rice Federation is a longtime leader in promoting and developing rice export markets. The U.S. rice industry exports about half of its crop annually.