By Ashia Grigsby, USA Rice
NEW ORLEANS, LA -- With Central America as the collective fourth largest export market for U.S. rice, USA Rice has been working for several years to strengthen the relationship with the industry throughout the region. Last week USA Rice met with the Central American Rice Federation (FECARROZ) to discuss further analysis of the Central America-Dominican Republic-USA free trade agreement (CAFTA-DR) both organizations are undertaking.
USA Rice presented the results of an econometric study analyzing the impact of free trade for the U.S. in the Central American market and while well received, FECARROZ has requested additional analysis of the free trade agreement to account for a scenario in which the Central American countries and the Dominican Republic bring their Most Favored Nation (MFN) rates to zero. In essence, this would nullify any preferential access for U.S. rice since all origins would receive zero duty access.
During the meetings USA Rice facilitated an opportunity for FECARROZ and USA Rice members to discuss joint promotional activities. Sarah Moran, USA Rice vice president international, and FECARROZ President Mario Solorzano both expressed gratitude that the two organizations have created a stronger bond and are working together to create more mutually beneficial trade opportunities going forward.
While in New Orleans, USA Rice also attended the annual Rice Marketing and Technology Convention and, along with Louisiana rice farmers John Owen and Christian Richard, helped staff the Louisiana Rice Promotion Board booth. Dr. Steve Linscombe gave a presentation on "Sustainable Rice Production" and introduced attendees to the new U.S. Rice Industry Sustainability Report.
On the final day of the trip, USA Rice was invited to a meeting with Ted McKinney, U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, to talk about issues facing the U.S. rice industry. USA Rice discussed the vital importance of maintaining and expanding export markets which has been a challenge over the past year.
"Not only do we face retaliatory tariffs in several countries but many rice producing countries are unfairly subsidizing rice production and taking away our market share in some of our top export markets," said Moran. "We discussed ways that we and other commodities facing an unlevel playing field could access additional resources provided for in the 2018 Farm Bill to investigate these bad actors."