Over the weekend, the government of Iraq issued a tender for 30,000 MT of U.S. rice, however the timing and schedule proposed by the tender made it almost impossible to successfully fill according to analysts. USA Rice reached out to allies on Capitol Hill for assistance and the response was overwhelming, immediate, and effective.
Senator John Boozman (R-AR) and the co-chairs of the House Rice Caucus, Congressmen Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Rick Crawford (R-AR), penned letters to Joey Hood, the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires for Iraq (currently the highest ranking official at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad) and Ambassador Fareed Yasseen, Iraq’s ambassador in the U.S., urging them to work together to facilitate a positive outcome for the tender.
The letters requested flexibility and transparency in the tendering process as outlined by the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for rice purchases between the two countries. Nine Senators and 10 House Members signed on to the letters that said, “[w]hile the U.S rice industry continues to stand ready to provide high quality rice to Iraq…we would request your assistance in encouraging the Ministry of Trade to be flexible in allowing the bid bond [to be extended five days].”
Late last night the tender was cancelled and Iraq’s Ministry of Trade indicated a new tender will be reissued shortly. Exporters are optimistic that the message sent from Congress will help pave the way for a more transparent process and ultimately a purchase of U.S. rice by the Iraqi government.
“It’s been more than seven months since the Iraqi government has purchased U.S. rice, so word of a new tender is welcome,” said Sarah Moran, USA Rice vice president international. “We appreciate the swift action from our allies in Congress that I think had the desired outcome to remind everyone that we have a good process in place and when we follow it, everyone wins – the industry here and the people of Iraq.”
The list of legislators who signed onto the letters include Senators Cotton of Arkansas, Cassidy and Kennedy of Louisiana, Wicker and Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Blunt and Hawley of Missouri, and Cornyn and Cruz of Texas. House Members who signed on include Representatives Abraham and Higgins of Louisiana; Babin and Cloud of Texas; Guest, Kelly, and Palazzo of Mississippi; LaMalfa of California; Westerman of Arkansas; and Bost of Illinois.