By Will Hehemann, special to the Arkansas Delta Informer
Oct. 20, 2022 – The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff recently hosted a delegation of Cochran Fellows comprised of agricultural professionals, scientists, researchers and government officials from the West African countries of Ivory Coast and Ghana. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agriculture Service selected the group to participate in the UAPB program intended to enhance the export of U.S. rice to West African countries.
Of the 12 Cochran Fellows, seven were from Ivory Coast and five were from Ghana. Over the course of the two-week program, they learned about sustainable rice production in the U.S. and ways to increase rice imports from the U.S. in their countries through international trade.
“This two-week program delivered comprehensive training on the U.S. rice industry and creating demand for U.S. rice products,” Dr. Ranjitsinh Mane, associate professor of agricultural and consumer economics for UAPB, said. “The instruction provided will enable the Cochran Fellows to create market access for American rice in their home countries and strengthen international trade.”
During the program’s first week, after touring UAPB’s rice research lab, the participants visited several companies and organizations including Consolidated Grain and Barge, Coker Farm, Riceland Foods, Inc. and Arkansas Rice Federation.
A visit to Producer Rice Mill, Inc. featured an interactive session between the Cochran Fellows and Arkansas rice farmers. Local farmers learned about market opportunities in Ghana and the Ivory Coast and customer preferences related to rice products in those countries.
“At the Rice Research and Extension Center in Stuttgart, Arkansas, participants learned about post-harvest practices in rice production,” Dr. Mane said. “This visit featured sessions on food safety practices in production and processing, preventing post-harvest losses, food storage and transport, as well as best practices in sourcing rice.”
For the program’s second half, the Cochran Fellows traveled to Washington, D.C. At Foreign Agricultural Services, they learned about the Quality Samples Program, which enables potential customers around the world to discover the quality and benefits of U.S. agricultural products.
“During a trip to USA Rice Federation headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, the Fellows learned about the work the organization does to promote American-grown rice nationally and globally,” Dr. Mane said. “They also heard about ways the organization develops and influences legislative and regulatory policies that help boost the productivity and profitability of the U.S. rice industry.”
In a press release, Peter Bachmann, USA Rice vice president of policy and government affairs, said, “The Fellows came from countries that rely on rice as a staple of their diets, and as much as they aspire to be self-sufficient with local production, they’re not there yet. In order to meet their needs, they have to import rice and all cited U.S. rice as the gold standard for quality, but due to a number of factors, they rely primarily on importers like India. But many hope that will change and they want to not only improve their own production practices, but build a more consistent and reliable import channel from the U.S.”
According to its website, the USDA Cochran Fellowship Program provides short-term training opportunities to agricultural professionals from middle-income countries, emerging markets, and democracies. The program’s primary goals are to help eligible countries develop agricultural systems necessary to meet the food and fiber needs of their domestic populations, and strengthen and enhance trade linkages between eligible countries and agricultural interests in the U.S. Approximately 600 Cochran Fellows come to the U.S. each year, generally for two to three weeks, to work with U.S. universities, government agencies and private companies.
Cover photo; Cochran Fellows comprised of agricultural professionals, scientists, researchers and government officials from the West African countries of Ivory Coast and Ghana recently visited UAPB. Dr. Ranjitsinh Mane, associate professor of agricultural and consumer economics for UAPB, far right, said the delegation learned about sustainable rice production in the U.S. during the two-week training program.