The government of the Philippines last month signed its P.L. 480 Title I loan agreement, marking the second major rice food aid deal for the year. The agreement, which covers an $8 million dollar allocation, is anticipated to generate sales of about 36,000 metric tons of rice to the government of the Philippines within the next month.

This, coupled with the sale to Uzbekistan on June 27 of more than 58,000 metric tons of rice, and an upcoming agreement with Indonesia for more than 80,000 metric tons, will secure about half the food aid tonnage for the year.

These movements are taking place much earlier than in prior years. The sales are critical to the rice industry and follow weeks of intensive USA Rice Federation (USA Rice) efforts to speed up crucial rice food aid tonnage movement through all major government programs.

USA Rice played a key role in the expedited movement by working cooperatively with USDA to urge timely action, clearing the way for 300,000 tons of delayed rice food aid overall that will ship over the next few months. An additional 67,000 metric tons has already moved,” said Jamie Warshaw, chairman of USA Rice's Food Aid Subcommittee and president of Farmers Rice Milling Co. in Lake Charles, La.

“In a tough year, food aid efforts are coming to fruition. We're pleased that not only are the agreements getting signed earlier, but the tenders will take place sooner than any time in recent years.”

USA Rice activity on the food aid front to date has included meetings with high-level government officials at USDA and the U.S. Agency for International Development regarding the urgency of including rice in food aid programming wherever possible and expediting tenders and shipments.

USA Rice members have been in constant contact with rice-state legislators about the importance of rice food aid. This resulted in members of Congress looking to government agencies for greater accountability about the timing and urgency of rice food aid.

The comprehensive strategy, which also includes working with those in recipient countries such as private voluntary organizations and embassy staff, has helped secure tonnage movement for the year. At the urging of USA Rice, USDA has released a schedule of anticipated food aid shipments.

“Our initial analysis of the schedule shows that the business is spread out over the next few months, which helps us with immediate tenders and doesn't push all the business to the end of the year,” said Warshaw.

USA Rice has not given up the fight to gain additional rice food aid tonnage for the year beyond 367,000 tons. USA Rice's efforts to heighten awareness played a role in the inclusion of 15,000 metric tons of additional rice in a major upcoming food aid package for North Korea. Advocacy efforts are also in process seeking further tonnage for the Philippines, North Korea, Indonesia, and southern Africa.

USA Rice is a federation of U.S. rice producers, millers and allied industries, with members active in all rice-producing states: Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas. The U.S. Rice Producers' Group, Rice Millers' Association and USA Rice Council are charter members of USA Rice.