Wheat-Importing Iraq Plans to Be Net Grain Exporter by 2017

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Iraq, a wheat-importing nation where flat bread is a staple, plans to become a net exporter of the grain within two years, government officials said.

The Middle Eastern country is in talks in London with international inspection companies about the classification of locally grown wheat for sale overseas, the national Grain Board said Wednesday in an e-mail. It didn’t specify any commodity exchanges where it wants to sell wheat. Iraq currently imports the grain from suppliers including Canada, the U.S. and Brazil.

Iraq has harvested more than 2 million metric tons this season, which lasts until the end of July, the Trade Ministry said in an e-mail, citing Saad Al-Hamdani, the Grain Board’s acting director general. Iraqis typically consume 4.5 million to 4.6 million tons a year, according to Grain Board data. The ministry didn’t provide details about how it plans to produce enough grain for export by 2017.

The government is targeting exports even as it struggles to regain control over wheat-growing areas that Islamic State fighters have overrun since last June. Iraq lost 1.69 million tons of grain to the militants, who seized all of Nineveh, Anbar and Salahuddin provinces and part of Kirkuk, Jamal Kamel Abed, the Grain Board’s former acting director, said Jan. 20. Iraq exported small quantities for use as animal fodder before becoming a net importer in 1954, according to Grain Board data.

Wheat exports would represent a step toward the diversification of Iraq’s oil-dependent economy. Iraq is the second-largest oil producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and crude exports contribute as much as 95 percent of the official budget, Planning Ministry spokesman Abdul Zahra Al-Hindawi said by phone from Baghdad.

Futures in Chicago traded at $5.1325 a bushel on Thursday, declining 13 percent this year amid expanding global supplies.

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