Iraq sees higher wheat harvest, to suspend imports

Iraq expects its wheat harvest to increase to between two million and 2.5 million tonnes this year, the agriculture minister said on Tuesday, up from 1.866 million tonnes in the 2009-10 season when rains were good.

“We expect wheat to be above two million tonnes,” Izzedine al-Dawla told reporters.

Al-Dawla also said he had asked the economic committee at the council of ministers to halt wheat imports until the local harvest ends, to curb illegal reselling of imported grain as local produce to benefit from high prices.

“Prices (of wheat) in Iraq are the highest in the region,” he said at a news conference.

Iraq’s government pays the steep prices to encourage farmers to plant more local wheat to increase domestic production and reduce the need for heavy reliance on imports.

The country is one of the world’s largest grain importers, with rice and wheat supplying a national food ration program. It consumes around 4.5 million tonnes of wheat a year.

The Canadian Wheat Board last summer estimated its 2009-10 wheat exports to Iraq at 1.18 million tonnes, making Iraq the CWB’s top export customer by volume in that crop year.

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