IRAQ* (5 December)

Land preparation and planting of winter crop should have started. However, the prospects for the 1998 crop are uncertain. As last year, production is likely to be constrained by serious shortages of spare parts for agricultural machinery, fertilizers, quality seeds, agrochemicals, vaccines and the widespread incidence of pests, weeds and animal diseases.

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission which visited Iraq last June/July found that although there has been some improvement in the overall food supply situation following the implementation of Security Council Resolution 986, malnutrition still remains a serious problem throughout Iraq. Although food rations under SCR 986 will provide a significant proportion of overall energy and protein needs, the provisions are low or deficient in a number of other nutrients, particularly Vitamins A and C, calcium, zinc, riboflavin and Vitamin B6. Special attention should therefore be given to actions designed to stimulate the production of animal products, fruits and vegetables, as well to ensure the continuation of an adequate economic incentive for producers of the foods provided under SCR 986. In light of this, the allocation of U.S.$ 94 million for imports of badly needed agricultural inputs in 1997, were considered by the Mission to be grossly inadequate in comparison to rehabilitation and investment needs in the sector. In this regard, it is important to note that the present allocation of U.S.$ 94 million is a mere 20 percent of the U.S.$ 500 million estimated by the 1991 Mission led by the Executive Delegate of the Secretary-General for the 1991/92 cropping season.

Production of main cereals in 1997 was estimated at 2.2 million tons, the lowest since 1991. Crop yields remain low due to poor land preparation resulting from a lack of machinery, low use of inputs, deteriorating soil quality and irrigation facilities, and increased crop infestation.

On 4 December 1997 the Security Council (SCR 1143) renewed the oil-for-food agreement for a third six-month phase on similar terms to the second phase. A possible increase in the amount of oil Iraq is allowed to sell over the six-month period will be considered on the basis of the Secretary-General’s report on Iraq’s humanitarian needs, which is due by the end of January 1998. The SCR 1143 also allows Iraq to continue to buy food, medicine and health supplies until 5 January 1998, pending approval by the Secretary-General of an acceptable Distribution Plan.