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Syria strikes big new Russian wheat deal via local firms

A driver operates a tractor to pile wheat grains at the drying house of the Solgonskoye farming company near the village of Talniki, Russia, on August 28, 2016. (Reuters file photo)
DUBAI: Syria’s state grain buyer has signed contracts with local traders for 1.2 million tons of Russian wheat, a government source said, the country’s second attempt at a huge wheat deal since October as it tries to secure supplies of the food staple.
“We have signed six contracts each for 200,000 tons. These are local firms who will source the Russian wheat for us,” the government source close to the deal told Reuters, declining to name the firms involved.
The government has allocated 52 billion Syrian pounds ($101 million) for a portion of the deals, the source said.
Flat bread is a subsidized staple for Syrians, who have suffered under a conflict estimated to have killed several hundred thousand people and forced millions to flee their homes.
Syria’s state buyer, the General Establishment for Cereal Processing and Trade (Hoboob), had struck a deal in October to buy 1 million tons of wheat from its ally Russia to feed government held areas and prevent bread shortages after a sharp drop in the country’s wheat production last season.
“This new arrangement doesn’t cancel out the previous deal, we are still trying to get procedures moving for that one,” the source said.
The October deal, struck with a little known firm called Zernomir, has so far not been fulfilled and may never be, according to Syrian and Russian government sources.
President Bashar Assad’s government managed to collect only around 400,000 tons of the 1.3 million tons of wheat that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimated Syria produced last year.

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