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EXCLUSIVE-Saudi Arabia liberalises wheat imports for flour mills

Credit: REUTERS/ABDULJABBAR ZEYAD

Saudi Arabia's state grain buyer SAGO said on Monday that companies that buy its flour mills will be able to import wheat directly from global markets in a further liberalisation of the country's grains sector.

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By Maha El Dahan

DUBAI, July 20 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's state grain buyer SAGO said on Monday that companies that buy its flour mills will be able to import wheat directly from global markets in a further liberalisation of the country's grains sector.

Saudi Arabia is selling its entire flour milling business, a long-awaited privatisation that marks one of the first sales of the country's state-owned assets, part of broader plans to overhaul the economy.

SAGO has controlled all the country's wheat purchases but after being privatised the flour mills will be able to buy from global markets directly.

SAGO, one of the world's largest grain buyers, said in response to a Reuters question that the milling companies could continue to buy wheat from SAGO or buy directly from global markets.

The first part of Saudi Arabia's milling sector privatisation was completed earlier this month with the sale of two milling firms, while the sale of the two remaining milling companies is underway.

The privatisation had attracted initial interest from some of the world's largest agribusiness companies, including Archer Daniels Midland Co and Bunge Ltd , and was seen as a litmus test for other large state asset sales to follow.

Saudi Arabia abandoned a 30-year programme to grow its own wheat in 2008 to preserve water and has since been purchasing the grain from international suppliers.

(Reporting by Maha El Dahan, additional reporting by Saeed Azhar, Writing by Nadine Awadalla editing by Louise Heavens and Jane Merriman) ((Maha.Dahan@thomsonreuters.com; + 9712 4082101; Reuters Messaging: maha.dahan.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net)) Keywords: SAUDI MILLS/PRIVATISATION (EXCLUSIVE, UPDATE 1)

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