BAGHDAD, IRAQ — Iraq, a major Middle East grain buyer traditionally reliant on U.S. imports, wants to allow Russian wheat in its state buying tenders, according to a Nov. 12 report by Reuters.

After a meeting with the Russian ambassador to Iraq, Trade Minister Mohammed Hashim al-Aani said he would send representatives to Russia to study its wheat quality and its suitability for use in Iraq’s massive food rationing program, Reuters said.

The delegation is expected to visit Russia before the end of the year, a spokeswoman at agriculture watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor confirmed to Reuters.

Iraq needs an annual wheat supply of between 4.5 million and 5 million tonnes, and has an import gap of around 2 million tonnes a year, it said.

In recent years, Iraq’s grain board has imported its wheat mostly from the United States, Australia and Canada. Reuters noted it is one of the few markets in the Middle East, alongside Saudi Arabia, that does not import from Russia, one of the world’s largest grain exporters.

Iraq’s grain board chief told Reuters in March that Russian wheat quality may not be suitable for the production of flour for the rationing program because of the nature of its gluten content.

However, al-Aani, who was appointed trade minister in October and oversees the grain board, said Iraq wants Russia to participate in its state tenders.