Iraq offers alternative to oil imports from N Africa

Written by Timsy Jaipuria | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 29 2012, 08:28am hrs
In line with Indias plan to augment purchases from West Asia to replace North African crude varieties that dent the refining margins of domestic oil marketing companies, Iraq on Tuesday expressed interest in increasing oil exports to India.

In an exclusive interaction with FE, Iraq trade minister Kheer Allah Hassan Babkr said: Currently, Iraq is exporting 250,000-260,000 barrels of crude oil to India on a daily basis and we expect to increase the number very soon. FE had reported that the country's largest refiner IOC plans to source difficult-to-process crude oil from Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia in a bid to pump up its refining margin.

Babkr said both countries' oil ministries are talking on planned increase in oil trade between the two countries. India is already one of the largest importers of crude oil from Iraq. According to sources, an Indian oil delegation currently in Baghdad is discussing the matter with Iraq officials.

Apart from oil, other items that India imports from Iraq include fruits and nuts, sulphur, wool and chemicals. Babkr said that Indian diplomats have promised that they would stimulate Indian businessmen to explore business opportunities in Iraq.

Iraq also wants to increase its imports from India particularly rice and sugar.

Recently we have bought about 100,000 tonne of basmati rice from India. We will continue to do so. We are also negotiating to buy sugar (from India), he said.

When asked about the reports that the US has raised its concern over Iraqs rice trade with India, he said: This is false. No one can advise us in anything related with our exports and imports. We will continue to buy from India.

Babkr also added that Iraq would look at inviting state and private sector of India to invest in the country across the all sectors. Meanwhile, in a CII function, Iraqi deputy prime minister Rowsch Shaways said that Iraq needs investment in all sectors, particularly housing.

"We hope that through your visit we will strengthen economic and commercial ties in all sectors and will look forward to build up our contacts and cooperation with reputable and experienced Indian firms and businesses," Shaways said.

The bilateral trade has increased from $5.7 billion in 2006-07 to $9.7 billion in 2010-11.