Iran to Import 5 to 6 mln tons Wheat in 2008-09

A04893121.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Iran needs to import 5-6 million tons of wheat in the 2008-09 year but none of it will be bought directly from the United States, an Agriculture Ministry official said.

“The country will not be purchasing even 1 kg of wheat directly from the United States,” the Islamic republic news agency quoted ministry spokesman Mohammad Hossein Ansarifard as saying.

Traders in Chicago said in August that Iran had booked more than 1 million tons in its first purchases from the United States in 26 years.

Another government official had said previously that Iran had not purchased the grain “directly” from its arch foe, but stopped short of an outright denial that it had bought US wheat.

Iran stopped buying US wheat after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 which ousted the pro-US government. Iran became self-sufficient in wheat in 2004.

Cold winter weather followed by drought has hit agricultural production in Iran, a country of 70 million people and the fourth-largest oil exporter.

Ansarifard said there was no exact figure for the amount of wheat Iran needed to import in 2008-9.

However, he said, “The country will have to purchase between 5 and 6 million tons of wheat from abroad.”

Iran prefers to buy wheat from Central Asian countries, Australia and Argentina, the ministry spokesman said.

An Iranian newspaper report in July quoted a senior government official as saying Iran had already imported 5 million tons of wheat.

The Commerce Ministry had said in July 2007, Iran would export 1 million tons of wheat to neighboring Iraq by the end of 2007-8 and other officials later confirmed the exports had started.

But in March, government officials said dry weather had damaged crops and this was expected to hurt agricultural output.

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