February 23, 2005



Iraq 2005 wheat imports seen at 3 million tons


Iraq will need to import three million metric tons of hard wheat for 2005, Iraqi interim Trade Minister Mohammed al-Jibouri said Tuesday.


Jibouri said that a total of nearly three million metric tons of wheat were needed in 2004, and 2005 figures will be similar.


These estimates are in line with the current US Department of Agriculture forecast that Iraq will import 3.3 million tons in the 2004-05 marketing year.


Jibouri said that Iraq wanted to import wheat not only from its traditional suppliers, the US and Australia, but also from countries such as Argentina, Canada and European countries.


But he said Iraq would continue to buy hard wheat from Australia and the US


As of Feb. 10, the USDA had confirmed that the U.S. had sold a total of 377,100 tons of wheat to Iraq so far in the 2004-05 marketing year.


The largest Iraqi wheat purchase announced last year was one million metric tons from the Australian exporter AWB Ltd.


Late last week, Iraq's state grains board announced on its Web site that it had amended a recent U.S. wheat tender to include US hard red winter wheat in addition to US hard white wheat. Iraq originally had tendered for 100,000-150,000 metric tons of US hard white wheat.


"But if the Americans cannot supply the amount, we will buy wheat from Canada, Australia or any other country which can offer us competitive prices," Jibouri said.


The US wheat industry is hoping to return to this lucrative market after several years of being shut out by Saddam Hussein.


Baghdad in the late 1980s became the largest export market for American rice and wheat.