Iraq sees bigger wheat crops cutting imports
London, June 10, 2014
Iraq expects its wheat production to rise to 4.2 million tonnes in 2014, reflecting government support for farmers, Khairullah Hasan Babakir said.
He did not say what last year's figure was, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization both estimated Iraq's 2013 crop at 3.3 million tonnes.
"We are, in production, at self-sufficiency in quantity," Babakir told Reuters following a presentation at the International Grains Council's annual conference.
"But for quality (requirements), we will export about 1 million tonnes and import 1 million tonnes ... The net (flow) is zero."
The country, previously a major net importer of wheat, would now need imported wheat only to meet its quality requirements, given that domestic wheat did not offer gluten content above 28 percent as needed for local milling, he said.
Iraq has already bought 950,000 tonnes of foreign wheat between January and May, and expects to import 1.2 million tonnes in total over the year, he said.
The USDA estimates Iraq's wheat imports at a much higher level, expecting 3 million tonnes in 2014/15 compared with 3.4 million in the 2013/14 season that has just ended.
Iraq was sticking to its outlook for higher production this year despite a drought that has affected a swathe of the Middle East region including Iraq, Babakir said.
"According to the timetable of receiving wheat from farmers, we are successful and we have no problems. There will be 4.2 million tonnes of wheat in Iraq," he said.
In the past five years, Iraq had imported about 11 million tonnes of wheat, Babakir said in his presentation.
A bigger barley crop this year should also mean Iraq will not import the grain this year and may export some volume, he told the conference. – Reuters