16 April 2003, Rome -- Farmers in Iraq are in urgent need of spare parts and fuel for combine harvesters and tractors for the upcoming spring harvest, FAO said today.

"Every effort should be made to enable farmers to return to their fields and start harvesting wheat and barley at the beginning of May," said Laurent Thomas, Chief, Special Emergency Programmes Service.

"In addition, urgent support is needed to revive cereal marketing and distribution facilities."

The outlook for this year's spring crop, which is the main harvest, is uncertain, following the recent military conflict, Thomas said.

Earlier estimates based on satellite images showing rainfall and vegetation, indicate a spring cereal production, mainly wheat and barley, about the same as last year's production of about 1.7 million tonnes.

"This would cover nearly 30 percent of Iraq's overall cereal requirements for the period July 2003-June 2004," Thomas said.

"A successful harvest would definitely improve access to food and could help stimulate the rural economy."

"Notwithstanding the potentially beneficial crop harvest this spring, the bulk of Iraq's cereal requirement will still have to be met through imports, including substantial amounts of food aid," Thomas said.

Even in good harvest years, Iraq always relied on substantial cereal imports.

Assessment mission

Iraq's agricultural productivity, particularly in major producing areas of central and southern Iraq, has continued to suffer from limited investment, shortage of inputs and deteriorating irrigation infrastructure.

FAO announced that, together with other partners, it is planning to send a food supply and nutrition assessment mission to Iraq as soon as the security conditions permit.

The UN agency has recently launched an emergency aid appeal for Iraq for $86 million covering agricultural assistance to secure crop and livestock production and improve agricultural productivity.
Erwin Northoff
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 53105