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Middle East’s wheat imports surge after drought

04 March 20222 min reading

Below-average rainfall and high temperatures have dramatically weakened wheat yields in Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Wheat production in Iran is estimated down 3.0 million tons this year to 12.0 million. To reflect the impact of severe drought, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) adjusted wheat production of Iraq and Syria to 3.5 million tons and 2.0 million tons respectively in its February Grain Markets and Trade report.

Production shortfalls have led to tightening domestic supplies and prompted a surge in wheat imports for the region in 2021/22. Russia has been the primary supplier given its transportation advantage and relatively lower prices compared to other major exporters.

Iran is projected to import 7.0 million tons of wheat this year, up 4.8 million tons from the previous trade year. Russia, which dominates this wheat market, has already shipped 4.0 million tons to the country from July to January. Smaller amounts have been purchased from the European Union through government tenders.


Syria wheat imports have also expanded. Beginning in February 2021, Russia began shipping large amounts of wheat grain to Syria. Russia sent over 800,000 tons in 2020/21 and has shipped over 400,000 tons so far this trade year. The Syrian Economic Minister recently stated that the annual wheat import requirement is at least 1.5 million tons due to drought and production shortfalls. With that in mind, Russian shipments to Syria are expected to continue throughout the year as Syria rebuilds stocks.

Iraq, meanwhile, is typically an importer of wheat flour and products, mostly from Turkey. This year, however, Iraq began importing more wheat grain to supplement its tighter domestic supplies. Unlike Iran and Syria, Iraq’s wheat grain is likely to be supplied by Australia. The state grains buyer made two purchases of wheat grain from Australia through an international tender, totaling 650,000 tons.

 


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