October 28, 2011
Iraq to harvest two million tonnes of wheat
Iraq will harvest at least two million tonnes of wheat in 2011/12 compared to 1.74 million tonnes in the previous growing season because of earlier rains, according to the Deputy Agriculture Minister Mehdi al-Qaisi.
"The country aims to grow more than three million tonnes of wheat a year by 2016, with the help of imported rotary sprinklers. Late rains crimped grain production last year, and Iraq is developing new varieties of wheat and rice that are more resistant to drought and salinity" al-Qaisi said.
Iraq is one of the world's top importers of rice and wheat, purchased by the government to supply a food rationing program held over from the Saddam Hussein era that ended in 2003. Soil salinity, poor irrigation and a severe drought in the last three years have combined to make it a buyer on world markets. Iraq consumes about 4.5 million tonnes of wheat a year, according to government data.
Reduced flows in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers have added to the hardships, and al-Qaisi said Turkey doesn't allow enough water to enter Iraq, its downstream neighbour.
"The released quantity of water is still limited," he said.
The Agriculture Ministry is importing irrigation sprinklers and plans to spend IQD170 billion (US$142 million) on the units in the two years ending 2011. Iraqi farmers have traditionally relied on flood based irrigation to grow crops.
"In this season, rainfalls are expected to be higher than last year," Iman Shallal, head of the Transportation Ministry's water and agriculture meteorology department, said. "The first rainfall was recorded in September, while in the last year it started in November."