Reference Date: 16-June-2015
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Despite favourable weather conditions, uncertain prospects for 2015 crops mainly due to conflict in parts of the country, including major producing areas such as Salahedin, Ninewa and Anbar
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 together with refugees, mainly from Syrian Arab Republic, is also putting huge pressure on host communities
Favourable weather conditions, but agricultural production jeopardized by conflict
Harvesting of the barley crop which started in mid-April is nearing completion. Harvesting of wheat started in mid-May and will continue until mid-July. Based on remotely-sensed data, images suggest relatively good vegetation conditions in the winter crop-growing areas. Late-season showers in May maintained favourable conditions for filling of winter grains while sunny skies and hot temperatures in the beginning of June supported drying of winter grains. Accordingly, from the weather point of view, winter crop prospects remained favourable.
However, the agricultural season (from October/November to April/May) was significantly affected by the ongoing conflict, particularly in northern parts of the country, which normally contribute to a large share of wheat and barley production. Salahedin and Ninewa governorates, at the centre of the current conflict, normally produce nearly one-third and about 38 percent of the total annual national wheat and barley production, respectively.
Reported constraints in timely seed distribution during the planting period last winter, normally carried out by the Government, have impacted the planting season, in terms of areas farmed, and in terms of quality, as many farmers in conflict areas resorted to planting grains from the past harvest. Supply shortages and inputs soaring prices were also reported for fertilizers, pesticides and fuel due to supply chain disruptions and the reported Government ban on fertilizer distribution. 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 and low quality seeds.
Security concerns, access to fields and disrupted procurement and distribution systems are expected to aggravate the situation further. In addition, the ongoing harvest faces fuel shortages and supply chain disruptions together with problems of accessing warehouses and Government silos in parts of the country to store any of the harvested crops. On 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.
Actual areas planted for the 2015 harvest remain uncertain. Despite favourable weather conditions, preliminary forecasts indicate a grain harvest below the 2014 level.
Good production in 2014, but supply jeopardized by conflict
Prior to the current escalation of the conflict, an above-average 2014 wheat harvest of 3.5 million tonnes, some 35 percent above the five‑year average, was forecasted. 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 by summer 2014.
However, the delivery of the wheat crop to the silos coincided with the escalation of the conflict and large areas, especially the provinces of Ninewa and Salahedin, being controlled by ISIL fighters. Related reports indicate that farmers in Ninewa and Salahedin provinces did not yet receive payment for the wheat delivered, creating cash flow problems in the upcoming cropping season.
Cereal import requirements stable in 2014/15
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 slightly decrease, reflecting an above-average 2014 harvest despite conflict-related challenges to production, storage and other logistical arrangements. 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). Nevertheless, in the areas under conflict (Anbar, Salahedin, Ninewa and parts of Kirkuk), the PDS is very limited due to disruptions of supply chains and Government cut-off. Some households reported receiving only partial rations. Reduced distribution of wheat flour via the PDS is supporting high flour prices in the governorates most affected by the conflict. Food prices in Anbar are the highest of all governorates, around 58 percent above the prices 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.
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 are expected to continue deteriorating for IDPs and refugees
As of March 2015, there were about 3 million people displaced within Iraq, of whom nearly 2 million have been displaced since January 2014. Many of these people have been repeatedly displaced.
Conflict is negatively affecting food security of the Iraqi population. One out of four IDP households is using negative coping strategies.
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.
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 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.
As of early May 2015, almost 2 500 000 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. 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 host communities.
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 up to December 2015. 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 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 agricultural inputs 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 were 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 the 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.