Russia has sent Syria 100,000 tonnes of wheat as aid: sources

ABU DHABI/HAMBURG (Reuters) - Russia has provided Syria with around 100,000 tonnes of wheat as aid, sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday. With the country's civil war in its fifth year, Syrian farmers, despite a better crop and higher offer price than last year, have sold less wheat to the state. That is boosting the need for imported supplies which are complicated by Western sanctions. "The wheat was given within the framework of humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people," one government source said. Another source close to the deal said the wheat had already arrived in Syria. "The Syrian government has received it," he said. One European trader said the deal was finalised in August and put the figure higher, at 120,000 tonnes. "If this is correct it would be a reason why Syria’s wheat purchasing has been so restrained in recent months despite the apparent need for imports," he said. Wheat and other foods are excluded from Western trade sanctions which were imposed on Syria because of the government's efforts to suppress a longstanding uprising. However, traders say financing grain sales is difficult because of banking sanctions. Syria's General Establishment for Cereal Processing and Trade bought 200,000 tonnes of wheat in a tender on Oct. 27 from a Syrian company. It had canceled a tender earlier in the year for 150,000 tonnes. In July, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated the government would try to buy 600,000 tonnes of wheat internationally this year while private importers would import 200,000 tonnes. (Reporting by Maha El Dahan and Michael Hogan; editing by Jason Neely)