Iraq recently agreed to purchase 30,000 MT of U.S. rice on a public tender with shipment scheduled sometime this fall. This purchase by Iraq’s Ministry of Trade was done under a global tender, which has not been won by U.S.-origin rice in several years, and raises U.S. rice sales to Iraq in year-to-date 2018 to 125,000 MT.
In 2016 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the USA and Iraqi Ministry of Trade on the purchase and supply of U.S. rice for the Iraqi public tenders. This had a positive effect on U.S. rice exports bringing total U.S. rice sales to Iraq to 93,100 MT in 2016 with a value of $45.9 million.
In 2017, sales dropped to 33,500 MT, followed by a substantial increase in 2018 to 94,500 MT in January-June 2018. Iraq’s total rice imports are forecast at 1,150,000 MT in 2018.
“Rice is considered essential to the Iraqi diet. Per capita rice consumption is more than 90 pounds per year so the market there is strong,” said Charley Mathews, USA Rice chairman. “This positive trade news coincides with harvest in the South so comes at a perfect time to assure our farmers of a destination for their crop.”
Nearly 90 percent of Iraqi rice is imported, with India, Viet Nam, and the United States as major suppliers. Thailand and South America also have made inroads into the Iraqi market under the government procurement tenders. Private traders will, at some point, replace government tenders, which currently dominate the rice market.