BAGHDAD - Iraq's trade ministry said on Tuesday it procured 311,944 tonnes of local wheat since the start of the harvest season last month.

The agriculture ministry said it expects local production to reach 6 million tonnes in the April-May harvest season.

Iraq, a major Middle East grain importer, had said in March that it would need to import one million tonnes of wheat this year to boost reserves amid growing concerns that measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic globally would slow the food supply chain.

"The procurement season this year is unique as the world and humanity face a dangerous health challenge that has brought the cycle of life and work to a standstill," Abdelrahman Tofan, the head of Iraq's grain board, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Iraq needs between 4.5 million and 5 million tonnes of wheat a year to supply its food rationing programme. It mixes local grain with supplies from Australia, Canada and the United States.

Iraq's grain board, which falls under the trade ministry, holds regular international tenders to import wheat for the rationing programme. The programme covers rice, flour, cooking oil and sugar.

(Reporting By Moayed Kenany, writing by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Kim Cohill and Sherry Jacob-Phillips) ((; + 9712 4082101; Reuters Messaging: