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Economy, agriculture and food security

In 2000 the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was US$25.9 billion, with an annul rate growth of -4.3 percent. In 1989 the agriculture sector contributed only 5 percent to GDP, which was dominated by oil (61 percent); in 2000 the agriculture sector accounted for 5 percent of GDP.

The economically active population is about 8.2 million (2005) of which 78 percent is male and 22 percent female. In agriculture, 0.7 million inhabitants are economically active, of which 45 percent male and 55 percent female. While the agricultural labour force represented 31 percent of the economically active population in 1975, it decreased to about 8 percent in 2004, partly due to the introduction of agricultural mechanization, the development of education and health services in the urban areas and increased job opportunities encouraging rural-urban migration. However, after public service and the trade sector, agriculture still is the main provider of employment in Iraq (FAO, 2003). A large portion of Iraq’s population lives in poverty, with many people engaged in subsistence agriculture.

The nation-wide rationing system set up by the Government of Iraq in 1991 prevented famine but with the decline in the energy content of the ration and the reduction in food available outside the rationing system, malnutrition and mortality of young children increased dramatically. In April 1995 the Oil-for-Food Programme was established under Security Council Resolution 986 (SRC 986), according to which the distribution of humanitarian supplies to the population is undertaken by the government in the centre and south and by the UN Inter-Agency Humanitarian Programme on behalf of the government in the three northern governorates. This arrested further decline in nutrition (FAO, 2000).

However, despite substantial increases in the food ration since SCR 986, the following has occurred:

  • child malnutrition rates in the centre and south of the country do not appear to have improved significantly and nutritional problems remain serious and widespread
  • existing food rations do not provide a nutritionally adequate and varied diet
  • the monthly food basket lasts up to three weeks, depending on the type of ration
  • despite shortfalls in the ration, some segments of the population can supplement their diet with market purchases, albeit at considerable cost.


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