WASHINGTON – USDA reports that a 165,000-metric-ton tender for rice by the Iraqi Grain Board has been awarded to Thailand, ostensibly because of the lower prices currently being quoted for Thai rice.

U.S. rice industry leaders have been pressing the Bush administration to help re-establish Iraq as the major market for U.S. rice that it was prior to the start of the first Gulf War in 1990. Instead, rice tenders have continued to go to countries such as Thailand and Vietnam, which did not support efforts to overthrow the government of Saddam Hussein.

A spokesman said the USA Rice Federation was disappointed that no U.S. rice will be included in the latest tender, but that it is continuing to work to restart commercial rice trade with the Iraqis.

Members of the Iraqi Grain Board are scheduled to visit the rice and wheat growing areas of the United States in the third and fourth week of May as part of that effort.

“We will use the opportunity of the visit of high-level Iraqis to demonstrate the high quality and reliable supply of US rice,” said a spokesperson for the Federation.

She said USA Rice Federation leaders are also monitoring the trade situation in Iraq through its Middle East consultant and an upcoming trade-servicing trip by USA Rice Director Hartwig Schmidt to the region.

USDA’s representative in Baghdad has reported that additional tenders for over 300,000 metric tons of rice are expected within the next several months.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com