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France’s Vilmorin defies US with seed exports to Iran

France’s seed maker Vilmorin is defying new US sanctions on Iran to maintain exports to the West Asian country which is the world’s fifth largest vegetable grower.

According to Press TV, Iran is facing the “toughest ever” sanctions imposed by the US in November but Vilmorin said on Tuesday it is working with a banking partner to finance deals with Iranian clients able to pay in euros.

Chief Financial Officer Vincent Supiot said Vilmorin is also considering taking part in a proposed European scheme, known as INSTEX, to conduct non-dollar trade with Iran via a barter system that would avert the sanctions.

The French group has annual sales of about 10 million euros ($11.49 million) to Iran by exporting vegetable seeds but it is unsure to what extent it will be able to pursue shipments under the US sanctions.

France was among the first countries to sign a series of projects in livestock and fish farming and exports of organic Iranian products to Europe as nuclear talks with Tehran in 2015 headed down the homestretch.

Vilmorin is one of the world’s largest suppliers of seeds for grain and vegetable crops, with annual sales of more than 1.3 billion euros, but an evolving US trade war on several fronts is contributing to an uncertain outlook.

The French group has already voiced its fears about a deepening trade dispute between Washington and Beijing, which could curb growth in the Chinese market.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump looked set to open a new front in his trade wars with a plan to end preferential trade treatment for India which is another major grain and vegetable producer.

In West Asia, Iran is not the only country whose standoff with the US is harming European companies, such as Vilmorin. A steep decline in the Turkish lira amid escalating tensions with US has also dented demand for the vegetable seeds that Vilmorin exports there.

Supiot said disruption of Iranian trade was a setback given strong seed demand in Iran. “We are going to have lower sales to Iran than before,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

On paper, US sanctions on Iran do not target food and agricultural goods but restrictions on dollar-based transactions make trade with the country virtually impossible.

To maintain exports to Iran, Vilmorin was exploring the potential for new local customers with access to foreign currency, and the possibility for customers to set up outlets in third countries that would then ship goods on to Iran.

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