“We value Mexico as our primary market for rice, but in the spirit of enforcing existing agreements and obligations which are critical to maintaining open markets, we hope that the U. S. government will consider the recent imposition of anti-dumping duties on milled rice and other U.S. commodities as a very serious matter,” says Travis Satterfield.

Satterfield, who farms near Benoit, testified during Senate Finance Committee hearings on relations with Mexico. An invited guest of committee member and Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott, Satterfield spoke on behalf of Stoneville, Miss.-based Delta Council, the USA Rice Federation and the U.S. Rice Producers Association.

According to Satterfield, U.S. rice farmers exported 730,000 metric tons of rice to Mexico in 2002. This number, he says, reflects substantial improvements from the period of the early 1990s when the United States was only exporting 146,000 metric tons of the commodity.

“U.S. rice accounts for 92 percent of Mexico’s rice imports, and almost one-half of all rice consumed by their population is purchased from the United States,” he says. “Since the per capita rice consumption in Mexico is extremely low, the U.S. rice industry anticipates that consumption will grow in Mexico as import duties on rice from the United States have ended.

“It’s important to point out that Mexico’s decision to impose punitive anti-dumping duties on certain imports of milled rice from the United States is a serious blow which threatens to erode the full benefits of NAFTA to U.S. rice producers, millers and exporters.

The anti-dumping penalties against the U.S. rice industry came at a conspicuous time, he notes, since import tariffs on milled rice were lifted Jan. 1, 2003 in concert with the terms of NAFTA.

While rice growers are thankful that the Senate Committee on Finance is placing an emphasis on the importance of trade relations between the United States agriculture industry and Mexico, Satterfield says the rice industry is not backing down from its demands that Mexico cease its anti-dumping duty.

He says the consequences of the anti-dumping penalties against U.S. milled rice are already registering problems, with a 34 percent decline in exports of U.S. milled rice during the first three months of 2003, as compared to 2002.

“As farmers, and as a rice industry, we enjoy trade relations with Mexico which have resulted in Mexico becoming our primary rice customers. However, in response to the anti-dumping duty, which has been imposed on U.S. milled rice, our industry will continue legal action in the form of an appeal within Mexico, and we support a filing by the U.S. government for a dispute settlement case in the World Trade Organization.”

e-mail: dmuzzi@primediabusiness.com