I. Key Messages
While the price of oil has increased as global oil markets recover, still some delays in payments owed to wheat and barley farmers who marketed their production to the government. The government has been speeding up its payment transfers before the new marketing season is due to begin in March. The harvest season for wheat and barley in southern Iraq begins in mid-April.
Iraq has been ramping up its exports of vegetable production, with MoA facilitating export procedures as part of a government effort to increase exports and regional integration with neighboring countries such as Saudi Arabia.
While the prices of basic food items (flour, rice, sugar) have remained stable, vegetable oil prices have increased slightly. Food access, mainly due to lack of money, and coping strategies including relying on lower quality foods and resorting to borrowing are becoming more prevalent at a time when the currency devaluation has increased prices of imported food items.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has continued to spread in Iraq. As of 16 February 2021, the World Health Organization reported 646,650 confirmed cases and 13,185 deaths. On 13 February, the Supreme Committee for Health and Safety issued several decisions to contain the resurge in the pandemic in Iraq, including a weekly full lockdown from Friday to Sunday with exclusion of Ministry of Health employees, security forces, markets, fruit and vegetable stores, bakeries and pharmacies.
The recovery in oil prices has provided some respite to the Iraqi government which has been struggling from lower government revenues. The government is dependent on oil for almost 90% of its revenues. Over the past two weeks, Basra heavy oil prices fluctuated between USD 55.31 and USD 61.26 per barrel, above the USD 50 average of 2020.
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.
III. Food Supply: Production (primarily on farm)
The government has allocated around a hundred billion Iraqi dinars ($68 million) to be disbursed to wheat and barley farmers for the 2019-20 agriculture season.
The payments will be distributed through the General Company for Trading of Grains, a public company under the Ministry of Trade (MOT). particularly in southern governorates of Diwaniyah and Thi Qar.2 Iraq is set to export 10,000 tons of tomatoes and 5,000 tons of potatoes to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia via the Arar border crossing, while 500 tons of potatoes will be exported to Kuwait via the Safwan border crossing. Potato production has marked a significant increase of 136.9% from the previous year in 2020, with planted areas exceeding 56.4 thousands dunoms. MoA has continued to support exporters to new markets as part of the government efforts to increase agricultural exports and state revenues.
Large quantities of smuggled vegetable crops and poultry products were seized and destroyed at several Iraqi border crossings, and legal measures were taken against violating traders, following the recent strict measures put in place by MoA to prevent smuggling of agriculture products. The government has stepped up efforts to protect local agricultural and livestock production and to ensure markets are supplied with local produce according to agriculture plans and crop calendar.
In order to preserve national fish stock, MoA has prohibited fishing (on rivers and in lakes) during breeding season across the country, with the exception of marine fish and fish farms. The ban also includes the use of illegal fishing methods such as small hole nets and explosive devices. Fish breeding in rivers, marshes and lakes in Iraq usually extends from mid-February till mid-April in Basra, Diwaniyah, Nasiriyah, Maysan, Najaf and Muthanna. Further north, breeding extends from early March to early May in Baghdad, Babylon, Diyala, Wasit, Salah al-Din, Karbala and Anbar governorates, and from April to July in Kirkuk and Nineveh governorates.
In support of livestock breeding and production, over 52,968 tons of barley was transported to processing sites in Diwaniyah as part of MoAs plan for the distribution of animal feed. The distribution of animal feed will benefit around 1,657 animal breeders, who hold around 425,638 sheep, 19,028 goats, 16,446 cows, 6,621 buffalo, 8,070 camels and 55 horses. Additionally, 2,419 tons of feed was allocated to poultry and fish producers