Syria in talks for 100,000 tonnes grain swap deal with Italy

A Syrian minister told Reuters on Feb. 22 the country did not expect to import wheat this year (Shutterstock)

Syria is negotiating an unusual deal to exchange 100,000 tonnes of hard durum wheat from Syria for 100,000 tonnes of soft bread making wheat from Italy, a source at Syria’s state grains agency said on Wednesday.

Talks continue and it is unclear when it might be finalised, said a source at the General Establishment for Cereal Processing and Trade (Hoboob).

“It looks increasingly like Syria has a distorted grain supply following disruption to its farming caused by the conflict, with too much durum and not enough bread wheat,” one European trader said. “An exchange could be a cheap method of changing this, saving foreign exchange.”

Before Syria’s four-year-old civil war took hold, the country was a large exporter of durum wheat, used for pasta-based dishes and semolina. Italy is a major durum importer.

A Syrian minister told Reuters on Feb. 22 the country did not expect to import wheat this year because domestic grain supplies would be boosted by heavy rainfall and wider control of farmland, while the country still has an Iranian credit line to import commodities if needed.

But on Mar. 18 the Hoboob agency issued an international tender to purchase and import 150,000 tonnes of soft wheat for bread making, European traders said.

Trade sources also said in March that Damascus faced challenges importing sufficient wheat stocks as payment problems and fighting have deterred many international firms from trading with the country.

“I do not think any Italian exchange deal would involve Italian wheat, it would probably involve wheat sourced throughout the EU,” another European trader said.

A European commodities trade source said the planned deal “is looking feasible although much will depend on the payment mechanism, which continues to be an issue with Syrian trades.”


Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 13:55 - GMT 10:55