24 Oct 2008

Iraq to increase wheat imports

7:20 am on 24 October 2008

Iraq expects to have to import 40% more wheat in 2008/09 due to drought.

Agriculture Minister Ali al-Bahadli said on Thursday the government has allocated some $US200 million to help farmers cope with the drought.

A further $US132 million has been allocated to buy an initial 200,000 tonnes of barley for animal feed and other purposes.

Average rainfall was just 40% of the normal level in Iraq in 2007.

As a result, Iraq expects to import 2.8 million tonnes of wheat in 2008/09, up 40% from the previous year. Wheat production is expected to drop 27% to 1.6 million tonnes.

Once known as the 'fertile crescent', Iraq exported dates, wheat and barley from the 1950s - 1970s. But agriculture now accounts for only 8% of GDP.