The government of Colombia, after too many delays, looks close to removing longstanding import restrictions on U.S. paddy. Colombian plant health officials have now acknowledged to their U.S. counterparts that the fungal disease Tilletia Horrida was present in Colombia and not in the U.S. as earlier alleged. This had been long used as an excuse by Colombia to restrict imports of U.S. rough rice to only the port of Barranquilla and processing in surrounding mills, and to require fumigation of the cargo before shipment. “This discovery removes the scientific basis for Colombia’s current import restrictions,” said USA Rice COO Bob Cummings. “Colombian officials should now take this evidence from their own study and move forward to remove the restrictions,” he demanded. USA Rice has been assured by the U.S. officials that Colombia will review and revise the import regulations on U.S. paddy by this summer. “The U.S. rice industry will continue to support and assist U.S. officials in Washington and Bogota in what we see as the final push to open fully the market in Colombia as soon as possible,” concluded Cummings.
Colombia has emerged as a consistent and strong market since the enactment of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, for primarily U.S. long grain milled and paddy rice. U.S. rice exports in 2016 were 139,985 MT valued at $58.2 million. The trade agreement provides for an increasing amount of U.S. rice to enter Colombia under annual duty-free tariff rate quotas (TRQ) until Colombia’s import duties phase out completely in 2030. In 2017, 98,448 MT of U.S. rice can enter duty free with rice imports over that limit attracts 80% duty. In 2016, more than $13 million was distributed to the six rice states rice research boards to support research and as an added benefit, they receive one-half of the revenue collected from auctioning of import licenses under TRQ each year.