News 296 views last update:6 Aug 2012

Iraq keen to import Australian wheat

Iraq hopes to keep importing wheat from Australia, but Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari warned that it is now a competitive market.

The Australian government at Tuesday's joint parties meeting will outline its decision on handling future wheat exports in the wake of the AWB kickbacks scandal.

Zebari said Iraq's trade minister would be visiting Australia soon to discuss wheat trade and other bilateral issues between Iraq and Australia.

He said Iraq had imported Australian wheat for the past 50 to 60 years. But, he said, Iraq had received many offers from Canadian, the US and European wheat exporters.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the government looked forward to the Iraqi trade minister's visit.

Downer said Australia sold about 450,000 tonnes of wheat to Iraq last year.

Single desk wheat exports to stay
The single desk for wheat exports will be retained but will be run by players other than the disgraced AWB.

Prime Minister John Howard is set to announce the reform of the wheat marketing system at a partyroom meeting. The compromise is aimed at quelling a coalition backbench revolt.

The single desk will be managed by grain exporters other than AWB, which paid $290 million in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein, and will be overseen by the government through a beefed-up wheat export authority (WEA), The Australian newspaper reported.

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