Iraq yet to approve Russian wheat imports -trade minister


Major Middle East grain buyer Iraq does not yet consider Russian wheat acceptable for imports, the Iraqi trade minister said on Wednesday, citing quality issues.

Traditionally reliant on the United States as a source for the grain, Iraq is one of the few remaining Middle East markets not dominated by Russian and Black Sea wheat, though it sent a delegation to Russia in December to discuss the possiblity.

"For wheat, the approved origins are still the U.S., Canada and Australia," trade minister Mohammed Hashim al-Aani said.

He added that Russian wheat imports would be approved if specifications improved, particularly if its prices are more attractive than rival origins.

Iraq needs between 4.5 million to 5 million tonnes of wheat a year and imports about 2 million tonnes.

Aani also confirmed that Iraq had purchased 120,000 tonnes of rice of Vietnamese origin outside the international tender process, adding that new buying tenders for wheat and rice would be announced in the next few days.

Traders had told Reuters on Tuesday that the purchase was made through a direct contract with Vietnamese trading house Vinafood1.

Strategic reserves of wheat are enough for three months and rice for two months, Aani said.

"We are on top of things when it comes to reserves."

Iraq's trade ministry oversees the state grain board, which is responsible for imports of wheat and rice for the country's food rationing programme.

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