GIEWS Update The Republic of Iraq: Drought in northern parts of the country 11-June-2021 [EN/AR]

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The Republic of Iraq
Drought in northern parts of the country


  • 3⁄4 Drought affected rainfed areas in northern parts of the country.
  • 3⁄4 Widespread crop failure in Ninewa Governorate and halved production in Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
  • 3⁄4 Decreased cereal production expected to cause loss of income, soaring feed prices and increased import requirements.

Similar to many countries of the region, wheat and barley are strategic crops for Iraq’s food security. The country strives to maximize domestic production to limit its dependence on imports. Cereal production is supported by input distribution schemes and guaranteed purchasing prices, traditionally well above the international cereal price levels. Wheat, the main cereal, is mostly milled for flour which is distributed, with other basic food commodities, to households through the Public Distribution System (PDS). According to a value chain study commissioned by FAO Iraq in 2020, about 70 percent of wheat is cultivated on irrigated land and yields 75 percent of the total national production, while the rest is rainfed, making the production susceptible to rainfall variations.

The rainfed sub-sector is located in the three governorates of Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah (approximately 40 percent of the area) in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) and in the governorates of Ninewa (northern parts), Kirkuk and Salah Aldeen in the central region (60 percent). The winter growing season extends from October/November to April/May and it is characterized by cumulative annual precipitation amounts between 250 mm to over 1 000 mm, increasing from south to north and varying from year to year in both spatial and temporal distribution. In April, the cereal harvest starts in the southern part of the country and then it proceeds northwards.

Figure 2 shows the share of wheat and barley production, from rainfed and irrigated areas, by provinces before 2013. Security conditions stemming from the presence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) prevented the Central Statistical Organization (CSO) from to issuing agricultural statistics (area, yields, total production) in Ninewa Governorate between 2015 and 2018. The Ninewa Governorate, noted for producing more than 1 million tonnes of wheat and barley in a good year, before 2013 contributed on average to over 20 and 38 percent of the national wheat and barley production in the entire country, including the KRI. Following the liberation of the area from ISIL in 2017, the share of wheat from Ninewa Governorate remained about 19–22 percent, although the share of barley reported by the CSO (data of which does not include the KRI) reached about 80 percent.

For the 2021 wheat procurement season, the Ministry of Trade decided to maintain the same prices as in 2020, ranging from IQD 420 000 to IQD 560 000/tonne, depending on the quality. The devaluation of the national currency against the US dollar by almost 22 percent in December 2020, which reduced the official exchange rate from IQD 1 182 to IQD 1 450/USD and lessened prices in US dollar equivalent to USD 290–385/tonne. The international benchmark price of wheat was USD 314/tonne in the second week of May 2021.