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Country Briefs

  Iraq

Reference Date: 23-November-2017

FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT

  1. Favourable start of season but conflict continues to affect crop production

  2. Below-average cereal harvest gathered in 2016, resulting in increased import requirement

  3. Food prices declined nationally in August 2017

Favourable start of season, but conflict continues to affect crop production

Planting of winter barley for harvesting from April 2018 started in mid-October, and that of winter wheat in early November. Planting usually continues up to mid-December. Cumulative rainfall in the month of October was below average, although plentiful rainfall in the first decade of November replenished soil moisture in the northern, most productive, areas of the country. Early season dryness is not unusual in the country and the effects can be reversed by normal precipitation before the crops fall into dormancy with the arrival of cold weather.

While weather conditions remain relatively favourable, concerns prevail about the progress of the agricultural season, particularly in the cereal production belt of Ninewah and Salahadin provinces. Here, large swathes of land are inaccessible or destroyed by fighting. Machinery and irrigation structures in conflict areas are reported to be damaged. Due to the limited availability of irrigation water, the production of “wet rice” was prohibited. Farmers are encouraged to employ dry production techniques to increase domestic rice production.

Many farmers across the country resorted to planting uncertified seeds or seeds from the past harvest, resulting in lower yields due to the lack of timely seed distribution normally carried out by the Government. Supply shortages and soaring prices were also reported for fertilizers, pesticides and fuel due to supply chain disruptions.

Below-average cereal harvest gathered in 2017, increased import requirements

Despite the conflict-related challenges, it is estimated that about 4 million tonnes of wheat were harvested in 2017, slightly less than in 2016 and the last five‑year average. Wheat quality is reported to be poor, making it more suitable for feed. Barley production is estimated at 1 million tonnes, similar to the five‑year average, but 17 percent below the previous year’s harvest. The Ministry of Trade is expected to purchase about 2.4 million tonnes of domestic wheat for the Iraq’s Public Distribution System (PDS). The current purchasing price of IQD 560 000 per tonne (corresponding to USD 487 per tonne) is below the procurement price of IQD 700 000 in 2016 and is likely to result in a decrease in planted area in 2018.

Cereal import requirements in the 2017/18 marketing year (July/June) are forecast at 4.35 million tonnes, including 2.9 million tonnes of wheat (mostly as flour) and 1.1 million tonnes of rice. The total forecasted cereal imports are about 13 percent above the previous year’s level and the five-year average. To decrease import dependency, the Government strives to improve the productivity of domestic wheat farmers.

Food prices declined in August 2017 but large regional differences persist

Food prices decreased by 6 percent across the country in August 2017 compared to the previous month, although large regional differences persist. Market functionality has been improving, with lower incidence of shortages reported due to conflict-disrupted supply lines. However, the purchasing power of the population living in conflict areas remains significantly lower than in the rest of the country.

The Ministry of Trade of Iraq continues to subsidize basic staple commodities (rice, wheat flour, vegetable oil, sugar and baby milk formula) through the Public Distribution System (PDS). In conflict-affected areas, the PDS is very limited due to disruptions of the supply chains and Government cut-offs. Some households report receiving only partial rations. The PDS is also reported to be understocked and cash shortages prevent the Government from replacing physical commodities with cash transfers.

In the Government-held areas, latest figures from the Iraqi Central Statistical Organization indicate that the annual food inflation rate has been negative since May 2016, recording a negative 1 percent in March 2017 (latest figures available).

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