* Wheat Board head says often sells wheat to Iran
* Wheat Board head won’t comment on story of wheat sale
* Sanctions would make an Iran deal complicated
By David Ljunggren
BEIJING, Feb 9 (Reuters) - The head of the Canadian Wheat Board on Thursday declined to comment on whether the board might be planning to sell wheat or barley to Iran, but added that “we sell wheat to Iran when they need it”.
Chief Executive Officer Ian White told Reuters: “We’ve often sold wheat to Iran and right now I wouldn’t be able to comment on whether there’s much going or not.”
White made his remarks when asked about an article in a U.S. industry newsletter which said the board was talking to the Canadian government about a possible sale to Iran.
White, speaking on the sidelines of a Canada-China trade conference in Beijing, said Iran generally entered the market “when they have a bad crop”.
Trade with Iran is becoming increasingly difficult because of sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union over Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme, which Iran insists is only for peaceful purposes.
Asked whether the sanctions would complicate a possible sale to Iran, White said: “The Iranians pay promptly but obviously we’d have to look at all the factors associated with it”.
Iran imports around 4.5 million tonnes of grain a year, including about 3.5 million tonnes of corn, which is mainly used in animal feed.
Canada’s federal Agricultural Minister Gerry Ritz, who is also in Beijing, was not immediately available for comment.
Canada’s Conservative government is a strong ally of Israel and has long had very poor relations with Iran, which it says is a major threat to world peace.
U.S. agribusiness giant Cargill said on Wednesday it planned to continue grain shipments to Iran despite signs the sanctions were having an effect.
The U.S. and European Union sanctions target trade and payments by the Iranian central bank. Bread prices in Iran have tripled since December. (Reporting by David Ljunggren)