UPDATE 1-Iran extends wheat buying surge

Fri Mar 9, 2012 12:39pm GMT

* Iran continues wheat buys from Russia, Kazakhstan

* Follows surge of buying in past weeks

* Trading houses "wait and see" on payments (Adds detail from paragraph five)

By Michael Hogan

HAMBURG, March 9 (Reuters) - Iran has bought at least 300,000 tonnes of wheat this week largely from Russia and Kazakhstan, European grain traders said on Friday, continuing a major surge in purchases in past weeks.

Iran is facing a poor wheat crop at a time of rising political tension over its disputed nuclear programme. Sales of food such as wheat, rice and sugar to Iran are not banned under sanctions.

"Iran has a major requirement after a poor grains crop but there also seems to be a political element in making such big purchases which are not normal on such a scale," a trader said. "The country would be in a far weaker state if it was involved in a conflict and was short of food or had to start buying wheat after a conflict started."

The purchases by state grains agency the Government Trading Corporation of Iran (GTC) were spread between major international trading houses and involved at least five panamax cargo shiploads, traders said. The wheat was largely for April shipment.

"Technically the Iranians have done a remarkable job in making such large purchases without pushing global prices up appreciably," one trader said. "They have spread their buying around between a large number of origins and are keeping the exact level of their purchases in the dark."   Continued...

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