The “global economy” you've heard so much about in recent years is no longer just another marketing catch-phrase. It's very much a reality, and a basic knowledge of world geography could be a big plus as you attempt to market your rice and soybean crops this year.

A perusal of recent market news is testament to the fact that commodity marketing truly has gone “global.”

In a recent three-day period, commodity market news in South Korea and North Korea, Iraq and the Middle East, and Cuba all found their way into the daily headlines, and that's just one sampling.

At the USDA Agency for International Development Export Food Aid Conference in Kansas City, Mo., a worldwide program to deliver $100 million in food to needy school-aid children and their mothers was unveiled.

The McGovern — Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program translates to about 200,000 tons of food commodities to be spread among 10 to 15 food aid organizations, both public and private.

“The McGovern-Dole program is the successor to the Global Food for Education pilot program, which was an important outlet for U.S. rice food aid in the past,” says USA Rice spokesman John Mentis.

In other rice news, the USA Rice Federation is reporting the possibility of South Korea shipping rice to North Korea as a way of mitigating its oversupply of rice. The rice will allegedly come only from domestic production in South Korea, and not from rice imported into South Korea.

“The South Korean government is seriously studying the donation of rice on credit to North Korea for each of the next three years beginning in 2003,” the rice organization reports.

On the Cuban front, several U.S. agriculture groups and Cuban officials are pushing for normal commercial relations as a way to open new markets for U.S. crops

One such producer organization is the USA Rice Federation, which recently met with members of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington to discuss trade relations between the United States and Cuba.

“Dagoberto Rodriques, chief of the Cuban Interests Section, requested the meeting to express Cuba's continued strong interest in working with the rice industry and U.S. agriculture to continue to push for normal commercial relations between Cuba and the Untied States,” says Bob Cummings with the USA Rice Federation.

“The ambassador's visit came against a backdrop of deteriorating political relations between the two countries, but USA Rice stressed the industry's commitment to the goal of normal commercial relations and reviewed ongoing rice promotion activities in Cuba.”

Soybean grower-led organizations are also working to drum up global demand for U.S. commodities. One growing export market for soybean meal, soybean oil, and whole soybeans is the Middle East, which continued to import U.S. soybeans despite the conflict in Iraq.

According to Criss Davis, a soybean farmer from Shullsburg, Wis., and United Soybean Board (USB) International Marketing chair, the war in Iraq is not expected to affect exports to the region.

“Iran has imported 3.7 million bushels of U.S. soybeans within the last two months. This is significant because it has been over a decade since Iran imported soybeans from the United States.”

Soybean producer Benny Cooper of Kevil, Ky., who chairs USB's Middle East Subcommittee, says, “The opening of a new crushing facility in the United Arab Emirates provided us with a great opportunity to build our relationship with these valuable customers. The new facility has the capacity to crush 150,000 bushels of soybeans per day and is expected to ship soybean products to markets in Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Africa, and several other Middle East countries.”

“Rapid population growth in the Middle East has led to increased poultry consumption,” Davis said. “We have also established checkoff-funded programs that create more demand for U.S. soybeans by informing the region's poultry industry of the value of soybean meal in the poultry diet.”

dmuzzi@primediabusiness.com.