Iraq wheat trade back on track

21 Aug, 2002 10:00 PM
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AUSTRALIAN wheat imports to Iraq are back on the cards after a high level AWB Ltd delegation visited Baghdad last week.

In a statement released by AWB Limited on Sunday, it said it had reached agreement with the Iraqi Grains Board to resume unloading of vessels currently held up in Iraqi waters.

And in other breaking news, AWB said it had just signed a deal to sell 30,000t of wheat to Jordan. It will be the first time since 1996 that AWB has traded with the Middle Eastern country. At the same time AWB has also announced a trade of 50,000t to Libya. When combined the two sales are worth $25m.

AWB managing director Andrew Lindberg said the quality issues that had prevented the cargo being unloaded in Iraq had now been resolved.

"This outcome will ensure that all shipments under the current contract can now proceed with confidence," Mr Lindberg said.

"This is a very successful outcome for both parties given this trade is vitally important for the Australian wheat farmer and the Australian economy.

"The resolution of these issues will secure current contracts of some 500,000 tonnes (of wheat) worth approximately $200m to Australian wheat growers.

"This successful outcome has now cleared the way for further discussions with the IGB for the calender year 2003," Mr Lindberg said.

Historically AWB sells about 2mt to Iraq each year under the United Nations Oil-for-Food program.

For the current marketing year AWB has already shipped approximately 1.3mt of wheat to Iraq. The resumption of trade will ensure AWB exports 1.8mt to Iraq this calender year.

And, while the AWB wheat shipments were stalled on the basis of alleged quality concerns, Iraq's actions are increasingly being linked with the Federal Government's continued rhetoric that it would support US military attacks on Iraq.

The Australian Democrats and Labor Opposition are increasingly raising the possibility that the Government's stance could harm Australia's entire $7.7 billion trade with the Middle East.

Australian farmers are set to take these concerns direct to the Prime Minister when the president of the Grains Council of Australia, Keith Perrett, meets with John Howard within days.

Iraq represents only 2m tonnes of Australia's 16m/t-export wheat market, but has historically paid well for the high quality Australian product.

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