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Country Briefs


Reference Date: 07-March-2016


  1. Ongoing conflict jeopardizes agricultural production despite favourable weather conditions

  2. Loss of assets and income opportunities from farming, together with disruptions in marketing activities and related logistics, have exposed large numbers of people to severe food insecurity

  3. Increasing number of IDPs together with refugees, mainly from Syrian Arab Republic, is also putting huge pressure on host communities

Despite favourable weather conditions, ongoing conflict jeopardize agricultural production

Planting of winter barley and wheat for harvesting from April 2016 concluded in mid-December. The planting season coincided with heavy rains at parts which, together with continuing fighting, complicated the fieldwork. Some planted fields were reported to be washed out by excess rainfall. In parts of Iraq, cumulated precipitation from October 2015 to the first dekad of January 2016 already surpassed last season’s (October 2014 to April 2015) total precipitation. Estimates of planted area for the 2016 harvest are not yet available.

While rains and mountain snow sustained abundant soil moisture and sufficient irrigation reserves for winter grains that were actually planted and established, heavy rains might have damaged some of the wheat from the 2015 harvest stored in inadequate conditions on the ground under tarps, particularly in areas where the ongoing conflict destroyed storage facilities, or where security conditions prevented deliveries to warehouses.

Production levels and access to markets is severely restricted for the most conflict-affected areas. A large part of the cereal production belt is now directly under control of ISIL, impacting access to agricultural inputs, cereal harvest and post-harvesting activities.

Security concerns, access to fields and disrupted procurement and distribution systems are expected to aggravate the situation further. Delays in, or lack of, timely seed distribution during the planting period, normally carried out by the Government, also impacted the planting season both in terms of areas farmed and quality. Many farmers in conflict areas resorted to planting uncertified seeds or seeds from the past harvest. Supply shortages and soaring input prices were also reported for fertilizers, pesticides and fuel due to supply chain disruptions and the reported Government ban on fertilizer distribution. Machinery in conflict areas is reported to be damaged and many farmers cannot access their fields.

In the long run, access to agricultural land in liberated areas will be affected by the high number of unexploded ordinance and mines laid by ISIL. The Salahedin and Ninewa governorates, at the centre of the continuing conflict, normally produce nearly one-third and about 38 percent of the total annual national wheat and barley production, respectively.

Good production in 2015, but supply jeopardized by conflict

Despite the fuel and input shortages, it is estimated that some 3.2 million tonnes of wheat were harvested in 2015, down from 2014 but 8.4% percent above the past five‑year average, owing to favourable weather conditions. Barley production, at 800 000 tonnes, was similar to the previous year and the five‑year average. Precise information from outside Government-held areas is not available. Government reports indicate that the Iraqi Grain Board managed to buy some 3.2 million tonnes of wheat from farmers by mid-August 2015 at a subsidized price of about USD 600/tonne compared to 3.4 million purchased by the same time in 2014. Anecdotal evidence from the field indicates that up to 600 000 tonnes of wheat may have been produced in Ninewa, Salahedin, Kirkuk, Diyala and Anbar.

Supply and marketing chains remain compromised by the conflict. Security concerns prevented deliveries to silos and delays in payments to farmers have been reported, creating cash flow problems in the upcoming cropping season.

Cereal import requirements stable in 2015/16

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 ration of 9 kg of subsidized flour under the Public Distribution System (PDS).

Cereal import requirements in the 2015/16 marketing year (July/June), are forecast at 4.54 million tonnes, including 3 million tonnes of wheat and 1.3 million tonnes of rice. Given the situation within the country, the level of actual imports might be lower.

Food prices high in conflict areas; disruptions of markets, cross border trade and restricted movement of food commodities are a concern

Iraq’s Ministry of Trade, through the PDS, continues to subsidize basic staple food commodities (rice, wheat flour, vegetable oil, sugar and baby milk formula). In the areas under conflict, the PDS is very limited due to disruptions of supply chains and Government cut-off. Some households reported receiving only partial rations. Internally-displaced people are reported not to be able to collect their rations elsewhere within the country due to inflexible supply chains and inability to move goods to the locations with the large shares of IDPs. The PDS is also reported to be understocked and cash shortages prevent the Government from replacing physical commodities with cash transfers. Reduced distribution of wheat flour via the PDS is supporting high flour prices in the governorates most affected by the conflict. Wheat flour and sugar prices in Anbar are more than 50 percent higher in Baghdad. Conflict-disrupted supply lines are resulting in shortages of fresh fruits, meat, dairy and eggs. The governorates with relatively good access report more stable market prices.

Road closures are severely disrupting supply lines, raising food prices (particularly in Anbar, Kirkuk, Ninewa, and Salah al-Din governorates), and creating shortages of fresh produce (particularly fresh fruit, meat, eggs and dairy) in local markets.

Government employees’ salaries and governorate budgets in the ISIL‑controlled areas might be under freeze. Collection of inflation data has been interrupted.

Food security conditions continue deteriorating for IDPs and refugees

As of December 2015, there were about 3.2 million people displaced within Iraq, of whom nearly 2 million have been displaced since January 2014. Many of these people have been repeatedly displaced. In addition, heavy rains in late October caused flooding which affected at least 84 000 displaced people staying in more than 40 sites and camps, mostly in Baghdad and Anbar governorates.

Conflict is negatively affecting food security of the Iraqi population. One out of four IDP households is using negative coping strategies. Among displaced people, about 70 percent report poor and borderline level food consumption scores in Anbar, Kirkuk, Ninewa, and Salahedin governorates.

Food security conditions are likely to deteriorate with a 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.

Employment is a high priority among displaced people across Iraq, reported by 42 percent of households. A majority of displaced people do not have access to regular, stable forms of income. Employment rates are lower for displaced people in central and southern governorates compared to governorates in the north. Access to jobs is particularly difficult for displaced people as a direct result of their displacement. Employment rates and access to livelihoods are lower for people residing inside camps compared to those outside. The average monthly income for people living in camps (USD 382) was also lower than those outside camps (USD 599).

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 resorting to negative livelihood 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.

The World Food Programme (WFP) Emergency Operation (EMOP) to populations affected by the Iraq crisis aims to support 1.5 million individuals via food, voucher or cash transfers on a monthly basis up to December 2016. The WFP also continues to provide food assistance to vulnerable Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey with voucher assistance, food packages and school feeding.

FAO assistance to help mitigate impact of conflict on food security

FAO, in cooperation with local Iraqi and international and national NGOs in the field, has been responding to the growing challenges to food security and agriculture arising from the Iraqi crisis. FAO has assisted a total of 569 000 people in Iraq for emergency food security, agriculture and livelihood support, supported by a grant from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

FAO has successfully finished distributing wheat seeds and agricultural inputs to farmers in Ninewa. This is expected to improve food security and to increase on-farm incomes generated by vulnerable households. Vegetable seeds and tools were distributed in Anbar and Salahedin, one of the most hard-hit areas of conflict in Iraq to address the urgent food and nutrition needs of returnees. In addition, FAO has assisted with emergency supplementary feeding of productive animals to provide Syrian refugees with life sustaining production. Special programmes to empower women are in place: a programme in Kurdistan supports women to become agricultural extension workers and ensures their access to agricultural vocational schools. Elsewhere in Iraq, Development of Rural Women enhances the capacity of women to reduce their vulnerability, build resilience and provide livelihood opportunities.