Reference Date: 25-June-2014
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
The harvesting of major cereal crops, currently underway, is in jeopardy despite earlier favourable weather conditions that raised hopes for increased crop and livestock production
Ninevah and Salah-Aldeen governorates, at the centre of the current conflict, normally produce nearly one-third and about 38 percent of total annual national wheat and barley production respectively
Loss of assets and income opportunities together with disruptions of marketing activities, transport networks and farming have exposed large number of people to severe food insecurity; the increasing number of IDPs is also putting huge pressure on host communities
Favourable crop forecast in 2014 now in jeopardy
Harvesting of winter grains in Iraq is well underway and about to conclude, while the harvesting of the minor millet and sorghum crops is expected to continue until August/September 2014. However, the ongoing and spreading conflict will likely have serious implications especially in key growing provinces. Prior to the current escalation of conflict, an above-average wheat harvest of 3 million tonnes, some 16 percent above the five-year average, was forecast by FAO. The barley crop, at 900 000 tonnes, was similar to the previous year but 15 percent above the five-year average. The most affected governorates, so far, by the current conflict of Ninevah and Salah-Aldeen which on average contribute together over 30 percent of wheat production and about 38 percent of barley.
This year, timely seasonal rains and irrigation reserves recharged from mountain snow moisture maintained favourable crop prospects. FAO’s Agricultural Stress Index (ASI) indicates that, in 2014, less than 10 percent of the crop land in Iraq has been affected by moisture deficit. All other areas received adequate moisture thus supporting agricultural production. In addition, analysis of rainfall amounts indicate that cumulated seasonal precipitation in Salah-Aldeen and Wasit provinces were at or above the long-term average, while in the main producing areas of Ninevah, Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah precipitation was slightly below the long-term average. Overall, crop prospects were generally satisfactory during the crucial periods of crop germination and establishment stages.
Accordingly, the current crisis is expected to negatively impact on the ongoing harvesting and post-harvesting activities. In addition, the large displacements of people would result in labour shortages at the critical harvesting period. Problems of logistics, storage facilities and larger post-harvest losses are also expected to add to the decline in domestic production and supply.
Cereal import requirements expected to increase in 2014/15 despite earlier average forecasts
Given the concern over current harvests of crops due to recent events, cereal import requirements in the just starting 2014/15 marketing year (July/June) are expected to increase. More in-depth field assessment would be required to determine the levels of this increase. In the just ending 2013/14 marketing year, cereal import levels were estimated at 4.26 million tonnes, including 2.7 million tonnes of wheat and 1.3 million tonnes of rice.
The Iraqi Government 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. Iraqi traders often seek higher quality wheat with more protein and gluten for blending rather than the cheapest origins.
Food prices were generally stable but disruptions of markets, cross border trade and in the movement of food commodities are expected to reverse the situation
Iraq’s Ministry of Trade, through the Public Food Distribution System, continues to subsidize basic staple food commodities (rice, wheat flour, vegetable oil, sugar and baby milk formula). Data collected prior to the current crisis reveal overall stable food prices. In May 2014, the General Consumer Price Index stood at 144.2 points, about 1.4 percent lower than the previous month but 1.4 percent up on May 2013. The food inflation rate decreased by 4.5 percent on a monthly basis and increased by 1.4 percent on a yearly basis. Cereal prices remain generally stable compared to a month earlier, while the vegetable price index that peaked at 35 percent last January dropped to 3.4 percent in May 2014.
Food security conditions are expected to deteriorate sharply
There are now nearly 2 million people displaced within Iraq, nearly 1 million of whom have been displaced since January 2014, including an estimated 500 000 people displaced from Mosul City and surrounding areas and a further 480 000 who have fled fighting in Anbar governorate since the beginning of the year. Many of these people have been repeatedly displaced. 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 large share of IDPs have fled toward cities in the Kurdish region of Iraq.
Reports indicate that in the most affected governorates of Ninevah and Salah-Aldeen levels of food available in the Public Distribution System are quickly depleting and might not be available to the most vulnerable. Given the month of Ramadan approaching, poor households with no stable income will have difficulties in accessing food in particular the Internally-displaced people who left their homes rapidly with only few belongings. Lack of resources limit the coping capacities available to households and limit access to food. Should the situation continue, prices of basic food and essential non-food items are expected to rise despite the subsidies and Government policies, particularly if cross-border movement of goods is hampered by security conditions.
Large number of Syrian refugees registered in Iraq
As of May 2014, almost 225 000 Syrian refugees were registered in Iraq. Most of the Syrian refugees have settled in the northern governorates of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region. The operation in Iraq should reach about 186 000 beneficiaries with voucher assistance, food packages and school feeding. The World Food Programme (WFP) continues to provide food assistance to vulnerable Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey.