Reference Date: 10-February-2015
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Uncertain prospects for 2014/15 cropping season mainly due to conflict in parts, including major producing areas
Loss of assets and income opportunities from farming together with disruptions in marketing activities and related logistics, have exposed large number of people to severe food insecurity; increasing number of IDPs is also putting huge pressure on host communities
Uncertain prospects for 2014/15 cropping season
Planting of 2015 winter crops to be harvested from April, concluded in December. Vegetation response captured by Normalized Difference Vegetation Index using satellite images suggests good establishment of winter crops.
Although beneficial weather conditions both in terms of precipitation and temperature prevailed so far, the 2014/15 winter cropping is expected to be affected by the ongoing conflict particularly in Northern parts of the country. In the absence of Government seed distribution, reports indicate shortages of seeds in addition to fertilizers, pesticides and fuel. Uncontrolled cross border trade in areas under control by the “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)” between the Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq are reported to have resulted in increased use of uncertified seeds. Security concerns, access to fields and disrupted procurement and distribution systems are further aggravating the situation.
Good production in 2013/14 but supply jeopardized by conflict
Prior to the current escalation of the conflict, an above-average 2013/14 wheat harvest of 3 million tonnes, some 16 percent above the five‑year average, was forecasted by FAO. The barley forecast, at 900 000 tonnes, was similar to the previous year but 15 percent above the five‑year average. Government reports indicate that the Iraqi Grain Board managed to buy some 3.4 million tonnes of wheat from farmers (the Board buys wheat at subsidized prices of about USD 480 per tonne). This indicates that the production this year was better than forecasted.
However, the delivery of the wheat crop to the silos coincided, from the second week of June, with the escalation of conflict and large areas, especially the provinces of Ninevah and Salahedin, being controlled by “ISIL” fighters. A number of grain board silos are located in these areas and were reported to have fallen with the stocks of grain. The Iraqi Ministry of Trade (MoT) reports indicate that in Ninevah alone, there are eight silos controlled by “ISIL” fighters which in early June 2014 had 180 000 tonnes of wheat stored. About 70 000 tonnes of wheat from Ninevah were delivered to MoT silos in Dohuk Governorate together with 10 000 tonnes of seeds to the Iraqi Seed Company. In Salahedin Governorate, out of seven silos, five are located in areas controlled by “ISIL” fighters with a storage capacity of 390 000 tonnes. Up to mid‑August 2014, a total of 462 000 tonnes of wheat was reported to have been delivered in Salahedin Governorate.
Related reports indicate that most farmers in Ninevah and Salahedin provinces did not yet receive payment for the wheat delivered, creating cash flow problems for farmers in the upcoming cropping season.
Cereal import requirements expected to increase in 2014/15 despite earlier-average forecasts
The Government of Iraq normally maintains three to six months’ supply of wheat in its food stocks and is committed to supply each Iraqi citizen with a monthly 9 kg of subsidized flour under the Public Distribution System (PDS). Iraqi traders often seek higher quality wheat with more protein and gluten for blending rather than the cheapest origins.
In the 2013/14 marketing year (July/June), cereal import levels were estimated at 4.76 million tonnes, including 3.2 million tonnes of wheat and 1.3 million tonnes of rice. Cereal import requirements in the current 2014/15 marketing year (July/June) are expected to increase, reflecting conflict-related challenges to production, storage and other logistical arrangements. At the moment, 17 percent of the 3.4 million tonnes purchased by the Government in 2014 are located in silos in the areas of Nineveh and Salahedin governorates controlled by “ISIL” fighters.
Food prices were generally stable but disruptions of markets, cross border trade and restricted movement of food commodities are a concern
Iraq’s Ministry of Trade, through the Public Distribution System, continues to subsidize basic staple food commodities (rice, wheat flour, vegetable oil, sugar and baby milk formula). Nevertheless, in areas under conflict (Anbar, Salahedin, Ninevah and parts of Kirkuk), the PDS has been suspended due to disruptions of supply chains and Government cut-off. Government employees’ salaries and governorate budgets of Anbar, Salahedin and Ninevah have been under freeze since the “ISIL” takeover in June. In November 2014, the General Consumer Price Index stood at 147 points, slightly below the previous month’s value of 147.1 but 1.9 percent up on August 2013. The food inflation rate increased by 4.7 percent on a monthly basis and 2.7 percent on a yearly basis. Cereal prices remain generally stable compared to a month earlier.
Food security conditions are expected to continue deteriorating
There are now an estimated 3 million people displaced within Iraq, nearly 2 million of whom have been displaced since January 2014. Many of these people have been repeatedly displaced, specifically in the governorates of Anbar, Ninevah, Salahedin and Diyala. At the moment, there are reports of deteriorating access to drinking water as well as basic food items and other essential non-food items. Food security conditions are likely to deteriorate with large number of IDPs putting strain on hosting communities, in particular as a large share of IDPs have fled towards cities in the Kurdish Region of Iraq (KRI). IDPs in Kurdistan have not been able to access their PDS rations in the KRI, due to registration and coordination challenges between the Kurdish Regional Government and the Central Government in Baghdad.
The World Food Programme (WFP) Emergency Operation (EMOP) to populations affected by the Iraq crisis supports 1.8 million individuals in need of food assistance by December 2015.
Farmers and rural households, both in conflict areas and in host communities, have been heavily affected by the current conflict. Farmers in conflict areas are resolving to negative livelihoods coping strategies such as having to sell their livestock at lower prices, either for generating fast cash or because of their inability to afford fodder and vaccination for their cattle.
FAO assistance to help mitigate the impact of conflict on food security
FAO, in cooperation with local Iraqi and international NGOs in the field, has been responding to the growing challenges to food security and agriculture arising from the Iraqi crisis. FAO is currently targeting a total of 225 000 people in Iraq for emergency food security, agriculture and livelihood support, supported by a generous grant from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
FAO has successfully finished distributing wheat seeds and agriculture to farmers in Salahedin, Ninewa, Dohuk, Erbil, Diyala and Kirkuk on time for the winter planting season. This is expected to mitigate some of the loss of wheat production in Salahedin and Ninewa, the breadbasket governorates of Iraq, and to assist the Kurdistan Region in responding to the growing demand for staple food. Vegetable seeds and tools are being distributed to host community families in rural areas and are also reaching Anbar, one of the most hard-hit areas of conflict in Iraq. In addition, FAO has assisted vulnerable farmers in Erbil, Dohuk, Salahedin and Ninewa with animal feed distribution, supporting farmers in maintaining their livelihoods and income from cattle.
FAO is also assisting IDPs to cope with their displacement by distributing egg-laying hens and poultry feed and by providing income generating activities under the cash-for-work programme to the most vulnerable families. To mitigate the risk of trans-boundary animal diseases, FAO, in cooperation with the Iraqi Government, has embarked on an animal vaccination programme to mitigate the risk of disease crossing over from the Syrian Arab Republic, due to the influx of Syrian refugees with their animals and un-controlled cross-border trade. FAO will continue to monitor the current food security situation in Iraq with focus on the conflict areas, by providing analysis and Rapid Food Security Assessments, which have been completed for Salahedin, Ninewa, Erbil and Dohuk and are ongoing for Anbar, Baghdad, Kirkuk and Diyala.
An additional 234 000 people are planned to be reached in the near future, depending on the availability of funds.
The funding requirements for 2015 are estimated at USD 38.5 million of which limited amounts have been received so far. These estimates include only current intervention and do not include any contingency capacity to respond to possible further massive population and livestock movements, as well as agricultural production losses created by conflict exacerbation.
Large number of Syrian refugees in need of food and livelihood assistance
As of mid-January 2015, over 233 000 Syrian refugees have sought refuge in Northern Iraq, particularly in Erbil, Dohuk and Suleymaniyah since the start of the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic. This includes almost 30 000 new arrivals fleeing the current fighting in Kobane in Northern Syria, some of whom are still waiting to be registered. Around 40 percent of the Syrian refugees are residing in eight camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, while some 60 percent have integrated in the host communities.
The World Food Programme (WFP) Emergency Operation (EMOP) continues to provide food assistance to vulnerable Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey with voucher assistance, food packages and school feeding.
In addition to the Syrian refugees, FAO and the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture estimate, since the start of the creation of “ISIL”, that around 160 000 livestock crossed the border with refugee families, as many of the refugees from Northern Syria are herders and smallholder farmers who depend on their livestock for livelihoods income. In January 2015, only 95 000 of the original 160 000 remain, as many refugee families have slaughtered their animals and sold on local markets because of their inability to maintain them and out of desperate need for cash. Within Nenewa and Dohuk, evidence from an FAO Rapid Food Security Assessment shows that families with livestock have little access to animal feed as supply chains are hampered and feed prices rise.
Pending funding allocation, FAO is planning emergency assistance in supporting the resilience of Syrian refugees by assisting in the revival of agricultural income generation activities in the most affected governorates in Iraq (Ninewa and Dohuk). Provision of necessary inputs (animal feed) will provide means to rebuild livelihoods and facilitate the inclusion of Syrian refugees in their host communities and local markets. Livestock owned by the Syrian refugees are facing a serious threat for their health and productivity due to the reduced access to basic feed (high cost for the grains and other source of the concentrate diet or unavailability as well as the very limited access to the grazing pasture due to the ongoing crises in the targeted governorates). As risks to production and assets increase, it is becoming progressively more difficult for the refugees to sustain or restart their livelihoods. Loss of income and immediate food sources essential to dietary sufficiency and diversity (e.g. milk, dairy products, meat) will translate into greater reliance on food basket assistance over an extended period of time, particularly among the poor. Thus, severely affected populations face a dangerous multifaceted threat of reduced food production and access, rising food prices, reduced aid, livelihood loss and, ultimately, depletion of their resource base and purchasing power.