THE US wheat industry has rolled out the red carpet this week for a visiting Iraqi trade team delegation, including members of the Iraqi Grain Board, as it tries to win back market share in the war-ravaged country.
US Agriculture Department official Lee Schatz told a US agriculture website that he hoped the visit would result in terms more favourable to US wheat suppliers.
Mr Schatz, the special Iraq counsel for the USDA's foreign agricultural service, said the US investment in rebuilding war-torn Iraq should help garner business for the US.
"They know they owe us," he reportedly said.
US Wheat Associates spokesperson Dawn Forsyth told Farm Weekly the delegation arrived last Friday for a week-long tour.
Ms Forsyth said the last Iraqi trade team to visit the US was in 1987, a year before Saddam Hussein closed the Iraqi market to US wheat.
The visit comes hot on the heels of the Iraqi Grains Board awarding a 100,000t tender to AWB and another 100,000t to Cargill.
The Iraqi Grains Board also met a US wheat delegation in Jordan earlier this year.
US Wheat Associates vice-president Paul Dickerson said he was impressed with the Iraqis' enthusiasm during the Jordan meetings.
"We offered some suggestions on their specifications in wheat tenders, so they could solicit wider participation than under the Oil for Food program," Mr Dickerson said.
He said the team was scheduled to visit Texas, Kansas, and Washington DC.
"During their time in Washington, the team will meet with government and trade officials who can provide assistance in facilitating future business," he said.
"The US wheat marketing system is somewhat complicated, but it is designed to ensure fairness in the multi-million dollar transactions.
"During their time here, we intend to demonstrate that the US system works to our customers' benefit, and suggest ways to write tenders so that they can accrue those benefits."
But it won't be all work for the visiting delegation.
"We're also looking forward to continuing the 'catching up' process on a more personal level," Mr Dickerson said.
An AWB spokesman had no comment on the Iraqi trade visit to the US.