June 18, 2009 in City

Wheat growers concerned about Iranian market

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Regional wheat farmers hope the political unrest roiling Iran won’t disrupt a business breakthrough that during the past year resulted in the first grain sales into the country in nearly 30 years.

Drought in the Middle Eastern country of 66 million people turned it into the world’s largest wheat importer during the past year.

“We sure hope to keep (Iran) as a customer,” said Glen Squires of the Washington Grain Alliance. The Inland Northwest sold 297,000 metric tons of soft white wheat, or about 6 percent of last year’s harvest, to Iran in the past year. The price: about $68 million, Squires estimated.

The June issue of Wheat Life noted the irony of wheat sales to Iran: “America has been referred to as the Great Satan by the government of Iran. If so, the country imported 15 percent of its wheat needs from hell itself this year.”

Iran had been the largest buyer of soft white wheat grown in Washington, Oregon and Idaho during the 1970s. The Iranian Revolution in 1979 brought such sales to a halt.

Other countries then moved to fill the gap, including Australia, a leading wheat competitor to American farmers.

Squires said American grain marketers have worked hard to turn Iran into a buyer, despite the political rhetoric and U.S. worries about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

About 85 percent of the wheat grown in Washington is exported. Last year Iran ranked as the fifth-largest buyer.


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