By John Lee.

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.

Full report here.

(Source: Reuters)

By John Lee.

Iraq has reportedly bought 1.75 million tonnes of domestic wheat so far this season.

According to the report from Reuters, the is well below a trade ministry’s target of 2.5 million tonnes.

The wheat purchasing season began on 16th April and is expected to last until the end of June.

(Source: Reuters)

By John Lee.

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.

(Source: Reuters)

By John Lee.

Iraq’s state grains board has reportedly bought about 100,000 tonnes of hard wheat in a tender which closed last week.

50,000 tonnes is to be sourced from the United States at $332.17 a tonne c&f free out, with 50,000 tonnes from Australia at $309.95 a tonne c&f free out.

(Source: UkrAgroConsult)

By John Lee.

Iran is said to be negotiating a deal to import around 100,000 tonnes of wheat per month from Russia, enabling private millers it to increase flour exports to Iraq.

Iraq imports about 3 million tons of flour a year, almost half of its demand of 6.9 million tons a year.

According to a report from Reuters, private millers in Iran are not allowed to use domestic wheat for flour exports.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that Iranian flour millers are operating at 50 percent of capacity.

(Sources: Bloomberg, Reuters)

By John Lee.

Iraq has reportedly bought U.S. hard red winter wheat in a direct deal outside the tender process.

Sources told Reuters that the product will be supplied by Cargill (300,000 tonnes) and ADM (Archer Daniels Midland) (150,000 tonnes).

Separtely, private exporters reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture export sales of 100,000 metric tons of hard red winter wheat for delivery to Iraq during the 2017/2018 marketing year (The marketing year for wheat began June 1.).

(Sources: Reuters, U.S. Department of Agriculture)

By John Lee.

Iraq reportedly bought 50,000 tonnes wheat from Australia on Sunday at $312.50 a tonne c&f free out.

The tender, which  closed on 31st July, was open to wheat from the United States, Canada or Australia.

According to Reuters‘ sources. wheat from the United States was offered lowest at $299.19 a tonne c&f free out, and there were no offers for Canadian wheat.

(Source: Reuters)

By John Lee.

Turkish engineering company Alapala has recently completed a turnkey flour mill project, one in Baghdad.

The facility, located on 6,000 square meters of land, has two lines with capacity of 250 tpd each, for a total of 500 tpd of hard and semi-hard wheat milling capacity.

The six-story concrete mill is one of a limited number of wheat milling facilities in the region that is fully automated, including the packaging section. The PLC controlled facility has remote management and management information system.

(Source: World Grain)

Emergency fertilizer distributions help conflict-affected Iraqi farmers increase wheat production

More than 2 000 farmers affected by conflict in Iraq have received 750 tonnes of fertilizer from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to increase production of their winter wheat crops.

The farmers, from Alqosh and Sheikan districts of Ninewa Governorate each received 350 kilograms of fertilizer, half of which will be used now for planting and the other half in spring to boost the wheat’s growth.

Since the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took parts of Iraq’s wheat belt in 2014, farmers have struggled to either access or afford fertilizer and other agricultural inputs, due to challenges that include restricted access to markets, the high cost of inputs, and the effect of conflict on Iraq’s Government, resulting in delayed payments to farmers for previous crops.

“The shortage of fertilizer has been a challenge for us. We can’t afford to buy it,” said local farmer Seve Kheder Slo, who grows wheat with her husband on their small farm to support their seven children. “We just planted our winter wheat crop and we’ll use this fertilizer straight away. It will support the crop to grow more than it would otherwise.”

With nearly one-third of Iraqis requiring humanitarian assistance, food security remains one of the most worrying aspects of the crisis in Iraq. Some 77 percent of Iraq’s 2.9 million food insecure people are women, children or elderly.

“When farmers can no longer access or afford inputs like fertilizer and pesticides, their crops, should they be able to plant them at all, are unlikely to thrive,” said Dr Fadel El-Zubi, FAO Representative in Iraq. “Since 2014, this is one of the factors that has contributed to countrywide cereal shortages and a sharp rise in the cost of basic food commodities in Iraq.

“Restoring people’s ability to farm and trade in conflict-affected communities is not only important for food security, but also for building peace and prosperity in the country,” he said.

By Dr. Layth Mahdi.

Prior to the 2003 Iraq had adopted an agricultural policy based on the financial, administrative, technical and technological support from the government for the development of the agricultural and industrial sectors. This policy led to the domestic production to provide 75% of the food requirement and a GDP contribution of 7.5%.

After 2003, Iraq suddenly shifted to a free market without any government plan or support.  The four Ministries (Agricultural, Water & Resources, Industry and Trade) managing this transition did not take the necessary steps to accommodate for this new change. In addition, rising prices for inputs such as fertilizer, seeds and fuel led to reduction in productivity followed by very high unemployment and poverty. More than 50% of Iraq’s cultivable land is abandoned with farmers migrating from the rural areas into the urban cities seeking opportunity.

In 2014 the agricultural GDP dropped to its lowest point. The reason for this sharp economic and social decline is due to lack of leadership, vision, planning and management from the state Ministries and the deterioration of agriculture and industrial sectors. The lack of economic activities in the private sector have also had an impact on unemployment, as well as administrative and financial corruption in the government sectors.

The heavy reliance on oil as a basic rule of economic strength, is nothing but a form of non-sustainable development. Despite the large financial and labor availability along with the water sources, the agriculture sector seems to stay unproductive. The government has spent more than USD 2 billion for an Agricultural Initiative program (2008-2014) to reform and develop the agricultural sector resulting in lower domestic production and increased unemployment.

One example of the failed program is the government purchase of wheat crops. The government was offering farmers a subsidized price of USD 600/ton when the average global price is USD 400/ton. Due to the attractive price and corruption, neighboring countries have been smuggling wheat into Iraq where it is being sold as domestic produce.

Before 2003 the average local wheat production was 1.6 million tons and imported 2.1 million tons. Despite the significant decline in agriculture and security the Ministry of Agriculture has announced that Iraq produced 3.2 million tons of wheat during 2015 however the true domestic production cannot be verified.

The Ministry of Planning announced for 2015, that the population was at 36 million. The labor force between the ages of 14-60 years makeup 58% (21 million) of the population. The government estimates unemployment rate to be at 25% (5.25 million), however; the actual rate is more than 50% with more than 12 million people living below the poverty line ($ 2/day). Those underprivileged have no access to food other than through the Public Distribution System which lacks the necessary proteins and micronutrients.

Reducing Iraq’s unemployment will increase stability and security in the nation. The Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) signed in 2012 agreed to expand U.S.-Iraq cooperation in the areas of health, agriculture, water, and private-sector development. Unfortunately the SFA was not properly implemented and the agricultural sector continued to decline.

With the guidance of foreign agencies, Iraq must rebuild its agricultural sector to decrease unemployment. A sustainable program needs to be developed that will train & encourage the Iraqi population to return to their farms. The abandoned farms require enhanced irrigation efficiency, improved agricultural services and implement laws favoring domestic produce.

Farming can provide over 1 million jobs for the poorly skilled population therefore strengthening the GDP and decreasing instability.