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Exclusive: Syria calls off mysterious million tonne Russian wheat deal

Reuters  |  DUBAI 

(Reuters) - A mysterious Syrian purchase signed last October with a little-known Russian trader has formally been called off, a source has told

War-torn had sought 1 million tonnes of from trader Zernomir to feed government-held territories and prevent bread shortages.

exporter supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's six-year-old war and has helped the with aid.

But there was scepticism about the ability of Zernomir to deliver on the deal from the start.

"The deal was cancelled due to difficulties in banking operations and execution," the source said.

A Russian agriculture ministry official had told the main problem was that the supplier lacked experience and had set the price too low.

State grain buyer the General Authority for Cereal Processing and Trade (Hoboob) instead signed contracts in February with local traders for around 1.2 million tonnes of Russian

"We now have within our hands a lot of the quantities from those contracts and we will also evaluate the situation and see whether we need to go back to the market through tenders," the source said.

Flat bread is a subsidised staple in Syria, where war is estimated to have killed several hundred thousand people and forced millions to flee their homes.

Hoboob has not named the Syrian firms that are helping it buy Russian

Russian customs data shows supplied 125,200 tonnes of to in 2016/17, up from 47,000 tonnes in 2015/16.

Syria's strategic reserves stand at six months' worth versus just 17 days of reserves last year, Internal Trade and Consumer Protection Minister Abdullah al-Gharb said last month.

(Reporting by Maha El Dahan; additional reporting by Polina Devitt in Moscow; editing by Christian Schmollinger and Jason Neely)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, September 13 2017. 13:40 IST