BAGHDAD: A Russian delegation visited Iraq's grains board to discuss the possibility of Moscow exporting wheat to Baghdad, the head of the grains board said on Thursday.
Iraq, a major Middle East grain buyer traditionally reliant on US imports, wants to allow Russian origin wheat in its state buying tenders and is expected to send representatives to Russia to study its quality and its suitability for use in its massive food rationing programme before the end of the year.
"The visit was to discuss the possibility of importing Russian wheat as per the regulations adopted by the board and to discuss organising the contract," grains board chief Naeem al-Maksousi said in a statement.
Iraq needs an annual wheat supply of between 4.5 million and five million tonnes, and has an import gap of around two million tonnes a year.
The country spends billions of dollars annually on a Saddam-era programme for food rationing, the Public Distribution System, to supply subsidised bread and other essential foods to its population.
Iraq's grain board imports its wheat mostly from the United States, Australia and Canada. It is one of the few markets in the Middle East, alongside Saudi Arabia, that does not import from Russia, one of the world's largest grain exporters.
Black Sea sellers have provided stiff competition to the United States in North Africa and the Middle East and won market share in recent years.