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US wheat group wants ban on AWB
A US wheat export group asked Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today to reinstate a ban on Australia's AWB Limited from USDA export credit programs because of alleged kickbacks to the former Iraqi regime.

AWB, formerly known as Australian Wheat Board, was among several companies accused of making illicit payments in a recent UN investigation of Iraq's oil-for-food program. The AWB allegedly paid some $US221 million ($295 million) in connection with humanitarian food purchases under the UN-administered program.

In a letter to Mr Johanns sent on yesterday, the US Wheat Associates said an Australian inquiry into AWB had established that "AWB acquiesced in Iraqi demands for illegal payments and that AWB officials knew that payments were going to the Iraq government". The letter, signed by USW president Alan Tracy, concluded: "It is inappropriate for AWB and its subsidiaries to benefit from US taxpayers programs."

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) spokesman Ed Lloyd said USDA had lifted the temporary suspension of AWB pending the outcome of the Australian Government's investigation into the allegations against it.

He said that in the interim, AWB was not participating in the export credit program.

"We appreciate the responsiveness of the Australian Government as well as their assurance that they will provide us with a full report of their findings," Mr Lloyd said.

The USDA has several export credit guarantee programs to encourage American agricultural exports to countries where credit is necessary to maintain or increase US sales.

When the original suspension of AWB was brought into effect by USDA, the AWB has accused US Wheat Associates of pressuring the Government.

The two groups are rivals in global wheat trade and vying for sales to the big Iraq market now that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power.

The USDA's GSM-102 program underwrites credit extended by private US banks for up to three years.

The Supplier Credit Guarantee Program guarantees payments on promissory notes from importers for a percentage of the face value up to 180 days, while the Facility Guarantee Program offers payment guarantees to finance US goods and services to improve agriculture-related facilities in emerging markets.
MGR Archive 27.1.2006
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Russia Rapan $ 700
USA Jupiter Rice $630
USA Calrose #1 $830
USA Calrose #1 Paddy $480
EU Prices Baldo €660
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