This morning, private exporters reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture export sales of 110,000 metric tons of hard red winter wheat for delivery to Iraq during the 2003/2004 marketing year that ends May 31. This is the first major sale of U.S. wheat to Iraq since Saddam Hussein shut the door on American wheat sales.
"U.S. Wheat Associates is very pleased that the World Food Programme tender process resulted in sales of U.S. wheat," says USW vice president Paul Dickerson. "We are particularly pleased that our work with the Iraqi Grain Board, a couple of weeks ago in Jordon, resulted in amendments to their specifications that ultimately opened competition between wheat from all originations."
Since Saddam Hussein forbade any purchases of U.S. wheat in 1998, others had a virtual lock on the closed market, working through an Oil for Food Program (OFF) that increasingly appears to be more corrupt than originally feared (as reported in the Feb 29 New York Times). The Australian Wheat Board participated heavily in OFF. Now, however, with the strong support of the USDA and the Coalition Provisional Authority, USW and the other groups are introducing competition for future trade.
"This is just the start to a new and vibrant wheat market in Iraq," Dickerson says.