CANBERRA, Aug 7 (Xinhua): Australia has lost most of its Iraqi wheat market to the United States as Iraq still maintains its trading ban on Australian wheat exporter Australian Wheat Board (AWB) over its paying kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's government.
A US Department of Agriculture report said American farmers have won 72 per cent of Iraq's market share for wheat over the past year.
The United States did not supply wheat under the United Nations oil-for-food programme for Iraq that ran between December 1996 and March 2003.
While AWB shipped 12 million tons of grain to Iraq and was the programme's biggest supplier of food, agreeing to Saddam Hussein's government's demands for 290 million Australian dollars (220 million US dollars) in illicit payments in the process.
US wheat sales to Iraq resumed in 2003-04 with shipments of 247,000 tons, increasing to 490,000 tons in 2004-05, then a huge leap to 2.33 million tons last financial year, Australian Associated Press quoted US official figures as saying Monday.
AWB only shipped 715,000 tons of wheat to Iraq in 2005-06.
Iraq had consistently been one of Australia's biggest markets since AWB first began shipments to the country in the 1950s, but exports have fallen dramatically since the oil-for-food programme ended with the invasion by US-led coalition forces in 2003.
A spokesman for Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile said the US export figures were not surprising given Iraq's trading ban on AWB.
Meanwhile, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer played down the loss of Australian wheat contracts.