Australia’s grain farmers are lobbying their government to ensure that American farmers are not given preferential access to Iraqi grain markets should the US be victorious in its assault on Iraq.

Australia took over the supply of grain to Iraq in the 1990s, shipping millions of dollars worth of grain each year to Iraq as part of the United Nations oil-for-food programme.

Before the US-led war in Iraq began this week, Australia was exporting 2 million tonnes of grain to Iraq each year, worth around A$800m (US$474m), reported BBC New Online.

Now, Australian farmers and wheat exporters fear that a US victory will mean American farmers are given preferential access to the Iraqi market.

“We hear reports that US grain farmers have made it known they want the Iraqi market after the war,” WAFarmers’ president, Colin Nicholl, told BBC News Online.

“It’s up to the Australian government to make sure that doesn’t happen.

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“If they allow politics to get in the way of trade, we will have to pursue them for compensation.

“We know it’s going to be hard, but we have no choice,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Australian wheat exporter AWB has confirmed that two shipments of wheat bound for Iraq have been diverted to Oman.

In response, the Australian government said it has purchased the shipments from AWB at a cost of around A$30m to send to Iraq after the fighting is over.

The money spent on the grain is on top of A$17.5m already allocated by the Australian government for post-war aid to Iraq.