In a letter sent to President Bush, the USA Rice Federation asked that U.S. rice play a large role in helping to feed the people of Iraq. The letter is part of a widespread effort to restore the relationship between Iraq and the U.S. rice industry.

Iraq was once the No. 1 market for U.S. rice. 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. In recent years, Iraq's annual rice imports from other world suppliers have averaged a million metric tons.

Rice remains the primary carbohydrate in the Iraqi diet. As one of the largest markets in the world for imported rice, re-opening Iraq could mean significant new demand for U.S. rice exports, particularly milled long grain.