March 13, 2009

Iraq looks to more wheat imports from Australia

Iraq wants a huge increase in Australian wheat imports previously slashed after a scandal over bribes paid to the regime of former president Saddam Hussein, officials said Thursday.


Trade Minister Simon Crean said Iraq is interested to import about one million tonnes of Australian wheat per year, nearly triple the amount in 2008 and up from zero in 2007.


Australian wheat exporter AWB paid kickbacks to secure billions of dollars in grain deals with Iraq between 1999 and 2003. Business with AWB was suspended in 2006 after the ousting of Saddam and when an official inquiry confirmed the briberies.


The scandal has led to Australia deregulating its wheat market.


Last year, Iraq imported about 348,000 tonne of wheat from other Australian traders but it was a far cry from the 1.2 million tonnes purchased in 2005.


Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the two countries are reconciling based on agriculture, resources, public health, education, security and trade.