With fiscal pressure mounting, GOI has moved part of the unused budget from the Ministry of Trade to the Ministry of Agriculture in order to finance the subsidy of seeds and inputs for the upcoming wheat and barley winter planting season.
In order to decrease government liabilities, the government will deduct outstanding loan repayments owed to the government from the payments due to farmers for the 2019/20 production. Farmers who have defaulted or have not paid their loans will have repayments automatically deducted, as the government consolidates the accounts, production payments and loans under the Agricultural Cooperative Bank starting November 2020.
The Parliament’s Finance Committee estimates that around 15 million Iraqis are affected directly and indirectly by the delay in state transfers to employees and retirees, including around 6 million state employees.
While flour and rice prices have been relatively stable, sugar, oil and vegetable prices continue to witness severe volatility, especially in northern (Kurdish) and southern governorates.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has continued to spread in Iraq. As of 19 October, the World Health Organization reported 430,678 cases and 10,317 death in Iraq, roughly a 12% and 9% increase respectively over the preceding two weeks.
The global economic slowdown, driven by pandemic containment measures, decreased the demand for crude oil and put downward pressure on prices. In Iraq, oil income accounts for 90% of the government revenue and the drop in oil prices has had a significant impact on country’s finances. Over the past two weeks, Basra heavy oil prices have remained stable, fluctuating between USD 39.22 and USD 40.06 per barrel, up from minimum of USD 18.7 per barrel in April 2020, but well below USD 58.4 per barrel, the price recorded roughly one year ago.
Due to the decline of government revenue, the government has further delayed the transfer of salaries for the month of October for state employees and pensions for retirees, for the second month in a row. The Ministry of Finance has submitted to the Parliament a law that would allow it to finance its operational budget for the rest of the year by borrowing from state and local banks. The law is still under review within the parliament’s finance committee. The finance committee estimates that around 15 million Iraqis are affected directly and indirectly by the delay in state transfers, including around 6 million state employees.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Bank continue to track the impact of this crisis on food security, with a focus on food availability, access, utilization and stability.