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UPDATE 1-Iraq has enough wheat and rice until end of 2019 -grain board
BAGHDAD, June 13 (Reuters) - Iraq has enough wheat and rice to last until the end of the year, although it will continue to import to boost its reserves, the head of its state grain board said on Thursday.
Naeem al-Maksousi said local wheat purchases could reach 4 million tonnes by the end of the season in August as more rainfall had boosted the local crop. It has imported around 400,000 tonnes so far this year, and so has enough wheat for consumption until the end of the year.
Iraq, a major Middle East grain importer, needs between 4.5 million and 5 million tonnes of wheat a year and on average imports about 2 million tonnes.
It has bought 2.65 million tonnes of local wheat since the start of the local season in mid-April, already exceeding last year's total purchases of around 2.17 million tonnes.
Iraq had expected to produce only 3 million tonnes in 2019 but better rainfall provided more fertile land to grow the crop outside of the areas originally planned.
"We will continue to purchase globally, though, for our reserves," Maksousi told Reuters in an interview.
Rains provided relief for farmers in Iraq after they struggled with water shortages over the past year.
The state grain board is responsible for imports of wheat and rice for the country's food rationing programme.
Maksousi said the board bought 700,000 tonnes of rice this year, enough for consumption needs until the end of the year.
Only limited rice planting was allowed this season locally as part of a water conservation policy. (Reporting by Maha El Dahan and Moayed Kenany; Editing by Mark Potter and Susan Fenton)
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