June 20, 2011

Iraq sees wheat harvest of four million tonnes in three years



Iraq expects to produce an annual harvest of four million tonnes of wheat in three years time, and will be able to cover domestic demand, according to the country's Deputy Agriculture Minister, Mehdi al-Qaisi.


Oil producer Iraq, which is struggling to emerge from years of chaos and war, is one of the world's biggest importers of grain but the country's government is trying to encourage local farmers to ramp up output by paying higher prices.


Qaisi said his ministry aimed to increase the planted acreage of wheat next year by 50% from the current area, by using modern irrigation techniques.


We expect the harvest to reach no less than four million tonnes per annum in three years time, and this will be enough to cover the local demand,' Qaisi said.


Last month, Agriculture Minister Izzedine al-Dawla said Iraq expected its wheat harvest to increase to between 2-2.5 million tonnes this year, up from 1.866 million tonnes in the 2009-10 season when rains were good.


The country's grain board chief said in London earlier this month that contracts for imports of about 1.5 million tonnes of wheat had already been signed, and the government would import about another one million tonnes of wheat by the end of 2011.


The government was helping farmers to buy fertilisers and seeds and also to obtain loans in an initiative to boost agricultural productivity.


Iraqi wheat production has risen from 628,000 tonnes in 2008 to the current level of two million tonnes, reducing Iraq's dependence on imports.