* Southern exports so far in March fall slightly
* Iraq's share of OPEC production cut is 210,000 bpd
* Exports fall from northern Iraq
By Alex Lawler
LONDON, March 16 Oil exports from Iraq's
southern terminals have edged lower so far in March, according
to loading data and an industry source, although not as much
as expected, potentially raising questions over the country's
compliance with OPEC production cuts.
A March loading programme had pointed to southern exports
from OPEC's second-largest producer falling to 3 million barrels
per day (bpd), which a source familiar with the matter said was
related to Iraqi efforts to comply with OPEC cuts.
But exports from southern Iraq - the outlet for most of the
country's crude - in the first 14 days of March have averaged
3.25 million bpd, according to shipping data tracked by Reuters
and by an industry source.
Two Iraqi oil officials said on Wednesday the rate in the
first half of March was 3.20 million bpd. Whichever is used,
exports remain closer to February's 3.27 million bpd than to the
rate implied by the March loading programme.
The lack of a large further drop in exports could add to
scepticism in the market about compliance with the OPEC supply
cut deal by Iraq, which in negotiations had argued it should be
exempt due to a need for cash to fight Islamic State militants.
"Exports look similar to February," the industry source who
tracks Iraq's southern shipments said. "To be fair, the market
wasn't expecting them to cut."
The OPEC cut started on Jan. 1. Iraq says it is committed to
the deal and another industry source said Iraq had cut
production by more than the 210,000 bpd reduction it was
required to under the OPEC accord.
It is not possible to draw firm conclusions about production
from a few weeks of export data, not least because the deal by
the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other
independent producers applies to output, not exports.
Iraq's exports can be volatile day-to-day, affected by bad
weather and technical snags among other factors.
The bulk of Iraq's oil is exported via the southern
terminals. Smaller amounts are shipped from northern Iraq via
Ceyhan in Turkey.
Northern exports have averaged about 430,000 bpd so far in
March, shipping data shows, down from about 600,000 bpd in
February according to a Reuters calculation based on Iraqi
This could be related to a plan to trim exports of Kirkuk
crude to deliver fuel for local needs and to a brief stoppage in
flows when Kurdish forces stormed an oil facility in protest at
the Iraqi government's oil policy.
(Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Mark