RICELAND FOODS Inc. has concluded the first sale of U.S. rice to Iran since trade with the Middle Eastern nation was halted in 1995.

The sale is for 5,250 metric tons of high-quality long grain rice and is valued at $1.4 million. It was made under a license issued to Riceland by the U.S. government.

Iran was the top export market for U.S. rice in the late-1970s before the Shah of Iran was deposed and the Ayatollah Khomeini rose to power and ended trade with the United States. Iran began buying U.S. rice again in the early 1990s, until President Bill Clinton embargoed new sales of U.S. goods to Iran in May 1995.

In May 1999, the U.S. government instituted a system of licensing of food products to Iran.

Richard E. Bell, Riceland president and chief executive officer, said Riceland has maintained a dialogue with Iranian rice importers and distributors during the past 25 years when relations between Iran and the United States have been strained. “We have been looking to the day when Iran would once again be a buyer of U.S. rice,” he said.

“Iranians remember the high-quality of U.S. rice. It is definitely their rice of choice,” Bell said.

“I am encouraged by the results of a recent poll in Iran by a state news agency which revealed that three-fourths of Iranians want dialogue with the U.S., and two-thirds of them want resumption of ties with the U.S. I believe there is no better place to start than the resumption of trade in food products.”

Bell credited the leadership and tenacity of Terry Harris, Riceland's vice president for Middle Eastern sales, for the conclusion of the sale to Iran.