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UPDATE 1-New Iraqi trade minister wants Russian wheat, more funding for subsidies

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BAGHDAD, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Iraq, a major Middle Eastern grain buyer traditionally reliant on U.S. imports, will send a delegation to Russia in December to discuss the possibility of importing wheat, its new trade minister said on Wednesday.

Mohammed Hashim al-Aani also said he aimed to secure larger state funding for the country's food rationing programme next year.

Aani had said on Tuesday Iraq was interested in opening up its international state buying tenders to Russian wheat suppliers.

The minister also said Iraq would work towards maintaining a three-month reserve of grains with larger funding. His deputy, Walid al-Mousawy, said local procurement of wheat from Iraqi farmers for the coming season was expected to total around 2 million tonnes.

Iraq needs between 4.5 million and 5 million tonnes of wheat per year. The local procurement figure implies an import gap of more than two million tonnes a year.

Still, Aani said he could not give a clear figure for estimated grain imports until the budget was secured.

"When we figure out the amount of money secured for subsidy cards then we can determine the size of imports," he said.

Iraq's trade ministry oversees the state grain board which is responsible for imports of wheat and rice for the Public Distribution System.

The minister said the delegation travelling to Russia in December would be composed of members of the grain board. (Reporting By Moayed Kenany; Writing By Maha El Dahan; Editing by Susan Fenton and Mark Potter)

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