US Rice Producers Association And Missouri Rice Council Visit Morocco

 This is a picture of the complete trade team along with representatives of the Foreign Agricultural Service at the U.S. Embassy and AMFI, a marketing office that represents the  U.S. Rice Producers Association in the Middle-East markets. Nina Bakht Hatal, Owner, Arab Marketing and Finance, Inc. (AMFI); Derek Sohnrey, California Farmer, Manager,  Sohnrey Family Foods; Mohamed Fardaoussi, Agricultural Specialist, US Embassy – Rabat Morocco; Soumia Aamar, Assistant, AMFI; Stuart Hoetger, Director, Pinnacle Rice  Cooperative; Laura Tucker, Coordinator, US Rice Producers Association; Veronica Galvan, Manager, US Rice Producers Association; Thom Wright, Agricultural Attache,  Morocco and Tunisia, US Embassy – USDA/FAS; Jay Davis, Co-Owner, Coastal Rice & Futures; Gary Murphy, Missouri Farmer, Gary Murphy Farms; Alex Clark, Missouri  Farmer, Clark Ag Co.; Chris Lee, President, Black River Commodities, LLC; Ben Hoffpauir, Texas Farmer, B&D Hoffpauir Farms; Alex Sohnrey, California                                                                                                  Farmer, Manager, Sohnrey Family Foods.

   Recently a group of US rice producers traveled to Morocco with the purpose of expanding US rice trade in North Africa.  Members of the Missouri Rice Council, and the US Rice Producers Association quickly identified the country as a strategic market, both in terms of domestic consumption and transshipping capabilities.  
   According to Laura Tucker, Coordinator, USRPA, “Morocco, traditionally a wheat heavy market, with their culture deeply immersed in bread, is now opening to medium grain and some long grain varieties of rice.” 
   Tucker added, “In lieu of the free trade agreement Morocco shares with the US and Europe, some buyers that distribute largely to hotel and restaurants in the market are turning to rice traditionally served with large family style dishes catering to resorts and restaurants throughout the region. Although many consumers still reside within the traditional use of wheat, rice is gaining momentum as a new market for US sellers.” 
   Rice consumption in Morocco has doubled in the past decade and continues to grow steadily.  While Morocco sources most of its rice needs from Spain and Thailand, with trade barriers or duties moving to zero in recent years, the US is now a competitive supplier of both quality and competitively priced rice to this country. 
   On this trade mission, Missouri rice producers, Alex Clark (Vice-Chairman, USRPA) and Gary Murphy submitted multiple samples of Missouri grown medium grain which were well received by Moroccan buyers. “The interest in US rice is remarkable, and it appears that our product is competitively priced,” said Clark following a round table meeting with various importers. As importer of roughly 50,000 MT per year, Morocco is only 50-60 percent self-sufficient.  “As a trade partner, Morocco offers reliable financing, stable political relationships, and an eagerness to work with US rice producers,” Clark added.  
   From a regional perspective, there may also be opportunity for US rice to be sold into Morocco with the intent of re-exporting to Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt where Morocco is able to trade with ease, not even needing to clear customs.  
   In addition to discussing trade, the USRPA delegation also spent considerable time researching the domestic rice markets. “It’s important to understand how consumers use rice, where they buy it, and what it costs on the shelf,” Murphy cited.  Understanding these factors assist exporters in providing more relevant and competitive quotes to importers.  
   The USRPA delegation was grateful for the support that the US embassy and the Foreign Agriculture Service extended to the team and look forward to working closely together in further developing this market. ∆

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