The Iraqi Agriculture Ministry has announced plans to save 3.6 billion cubic meters of water by deploying 35,000 irrigation sprinklers during the next planting season, according to AKnews.
Ministry spokesman Karim al-Tamimi said the sprinklers were distributed among all provinces in the country.
Iraq has suffered from drought due to a lack of rainfall as well as low water levels in rivers that enter the country, such as the Tigris and Euphrates. Iraq accuses Turkey, Syria and Iran of being responsible for the low levels of water due to the building of dams.
The news follows an announcement by the KRG to build 12 dams in the semi-autonomous region in an attempt to save about 20 billion cubic meters of water annually.
The Iraqi Trade Ministry has reportedly signed a contract with the Egyptian company Arma for the purchase of 25,000 tons of vegetable oil.
Hashem Hatam, the Foreign economic relations chief at the ministry, told AKnews that the oil will be distributed to civilians through the food rationing program.
The quantity is sufficient for only three months, so the ministry has therefore turned to Turkish and Argentinean companies for the rest of the oil.
The first shipment is due to arrive at the port of Umm Qasr on 23rd February.
Hatam added that the ministry has invited all Egyptian companies engaged in the production of oil and sugar to visit Iraq to confirm their investment prospects and participate in bids to supply the food rationing program.
Iraq’s wheat crop is expected to decline further if rains do not arrive soon, according to a report from BlackSeaGrain.
Although some small showers have helped the crop, wheat yields are already down by 11 per cent on the last seasons crop.
If the rains do not arrive Iraq will most likely need to increase it’s imports of wheat for milling purposes, by the amount of the shortfall, at this time estimated to be around 250 TMT.
Iraq plans to increase domestic wheat production by about 74 percent to 3 million metric tons by 2015, according to Saleh Hussein Jabur [Jabr], director general of state- owned Mesopotamia Seed Company.
Bloomberg reports that the government intends to triple the annual quantity of wheat seed that it buys from local farmers to 180,000 tons in 2015 from 60,000 tons now.
Iraq is one of the world’s biggest importers of wheat and rice, which are purchased by the government to supply the country’s food rationing program. Soil salinity, poor irrigation and a drought in the last three years combined to make the country a buyer on world markets.
Iraq consumes about 4.5 million tons of wheat a year and local production for the 2010-11 season was about 1.73 million tons; the country plans to import 3 million tons of wheat in 2012.
Food stocks in the governorate of Sulaimaniya are now less than two weeks according to Sirwan Mohammed, the head of Sulaimaniya Chamber of Commerce.
He told AKnews that since last year his office has been demanding the government allocate land plots to the Chamber so that it can construct new storage units.
He added that last year the Chamber took over 132 stores but “they are not enough even for three businessmen.”
More than 1,500 businessmen have demanded the Chamber provide them with plots of land to build food stores.
Mohammed said since 1991 both the number of Kurdish businessmen and their capital has increased.
“Those businessmen who could only trade one container now can trade 100 containers,” he said.
Khasraw Kamal, Sulaimaniya mayor, told AKnews: “This case is not related to us at all. They can follow up the issue with the Ministry of Trade. Our work is to provide land for the industrial sector not commercial.”
The Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) gave loans to almost 1,500 individual projects in 2011, reports AKnews.
Nuri Ismael, The Ministry’s loans and marketing director, told the news agency that the agricultural banks in Sulaimaniya, Erbil, and Duhok provinces as well as Garmiyan area have given a total of 57.465 billion IQD (almost $49m) as loans to 1,498 projects.
The official did not provide any figures for comparison with the previous years.
Currently the maximum loan is 100 million IQD ($85,000 USD), to be repaid in installments, but Ismael added that the Ministry of Finance and Economics has decided to raise the maximum loan to 150m IQD ($127,500 USD).
“But we will try to issue new instructions for obtaining the loans so that more farmers can benefit from them,” he added.
Agriculture Minister Jamil Suleiman told AKnews in December that the Ministry will hold a conference in January to reconsider and improve agricultural loans which in the past few years have boosted the sector.
At the conference, the minister added, agricultural directors and the director-generals of the agricultural banks will recommend more productive methods for boosting agriculture in the region by utilising these loans.
Three years ago the Ministry announced a five year strategic plan which aims at regional self-sufficiency in vegetables, grains, diary and meat by end of 2013.