By Dana Taib Menmy for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Thousands of dunams of wheat and barley crops were torched this month in Kirkuk, Ninevah, Salahuddin and Diyala provinces, adding agony to the harsh lives of Iraqi farmers and raising the question of who is really behind the fires?
Local wheat production in Iraq could reach almost 3 million tonnes in the 2018-2019 season, up from 2.17 million tonnes in the previous year, according to Reuters.
While the total area of wheat planted using irrigation has fallen from one million hectares in the 2017-2018 season to 550,000 hectares this season, better rainfall will account for the increased production.
This is expected will cover 60 percent of the needs of Iraq’s food rationing programme, which needs between 4.5 million to 5 million tonnes of wheat annually.
A former Minister for Trade and two former State Directors of the Ministry have been sentenced in absentia to seven years in prison for corruption.
A statement from Iraq’s Commission of Integrity said the three committed offenses in two contracts between the State Company for Trading Grain and a company supplying basmati rice, with “damage to public money in the two contracts” of $14.3 million.
Iraq is expected to significantly increase its imports of wheat, as it reportedly cuts the irrigated area it plants with wheat by half in the 2018-2019 growing season due to the continuing water shortages.
Deputy Agriculture Minister Mahdi al-Qaisi told Reuters:
“The shortage of water resources, climate change and drought are the main reasons behind this decision, our expectation is the area will shrink to half.”
The country already imports more than one million tonnes of wheat per year, with annual demand of around 4.5 to 5.0 million tonnes.
Despite this year’s drought, Iraq has reportedly bought more than 300,000 tonnes of domestic wheat this season, and maintained its estimate of 2.5 million tonnes of local purchases for the 2018 season.
According to Reuters, this implies an import gap of 2 million tonnes, as the country uses between 4.5 million and 5 million tonnes of wheat annually.
Iraq typically buys wheat of US, Canadian and Australian origin.