Iraq oil sales dip last month but income up in 2012

Iraq's oil exports in December fell due to bad weather and a dispute with the Kurdish region, but the country still saw sharply higher income last year compared to 2011, new figures showed on Monday.

Sales of crude and revenues from oil exports last month were both the lowest figures since June, a statement from Iraq's oil ministry said, with average daily exports of 2.35 million barrels per day (bpd). The average price per barrel was $103.72, according to the ministry.

The statement showed that Iraq nevertheless brought in $94.03 billion in oil revenues over the course of 2012, a 13 percent increase compared to the previous year, largely on the back of ever-increasing exports.

Crude exports account for the lion's share of government income, and Baghdad is looking to dramatically ramp up both production and sales in the coming years, bringing in much-needed cash to rebuild its conflict-battered economy.

"It was because of bad weather, which affected the level of exports, and also because of the cut in oil exports from Kurdistan," said ministry spokesman Assem Jihad, explaining the December decline.

He was referring to a decision by the northern Kurdish region to slash oil exports from over 100,000 bpd in recent months to fewer than 5,000 bpd over a payments row with Baghdad.

Baghdad and Arbil are at odds over issues including Kurdistan's refusal to seek approval from the central government for oil contracts it has awarded to foreign firms, and over a swathe of disputed territory in northern Iraq.

The central government says all oil deals must go through the national oil ministry and regards any that do not as illegal.

The country has proven reserves of 143.1 billion barrels of oil and 3.2 trillion cubic metres (111.9 trillion cubic feet) of gas, both of which are among the largest in the world.

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