HAMBURG (Reuters) - Iran's state grain buyer has been in talks with export houses aimed at buying around 121,254 tons of U.S.-origin milling wheat, traders said, even as the United States and Europe impose toughened sanctions to stem Tehran's nuclear program.
Iranian wheat imports are traditionally handled by the private sector and government, but the state has taken a bigger role with purchases in the past year after disruption to trade finance caused by toughened Western sanctions targeting the country's disputed nuclear program.
Sanctions do not stop food shipments but they make it difficult for Iranian importers to obtain letters of credit to finance purchases or conduct international transfers of funds through banks.
"There is no confirmation that a sale has been made but there were negotiations about wheat for April shipment," one trader said.
One trader said Iran's state Government Trading Corporation (GTC) had been seeking 110,000 metric tons (121,254 tons) of U.S. hard red winter wheat in two 55,000 metric ton consignments.
Another trader said: "U.S. wheat is about the cheapest in the world and this is attracting the Iranians, at least 100,000 metric ton has been spoken about in the last week."
Iran's GTC has been quietly contacting trading houses directly for offers rather than issuing purchase tenders for wheat.
Iran had previously made large purchases of U.S. wheat in March 2012 despite the political tension.
It also recently made big purchases of wheat from Germany and Australia along with large purchases of soymeal from Argentina and India.
(Reporting by Michael Hogan; editing by Veronica Brown and Keiron Henderson)