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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

FAO warns of Iraqi food insecurity

United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has warned that Iraq is facing serious food insecurity concerns following the recent escalation of conflict in a large swath of the country, NaijaAgronet authoritatively reports.

FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) recently raised the alarm that over 1 million people so far have fled their homes and farms since January, leaving behind jobs and possessions just as the main harvesting season for wheat and barley crops was getting under way.

According to the report, no fewer than 2 million Iraqis are now displaced within the country, including those affected by the Syrian conflicts and previous events in Iraq.

FAO had predicted an above-average wheat harvest of 3 million tonnes for this year, some 16 percent above the five-year average. The barley crop was also expected to hold steady at 900 000 tonnes, still 15 percent above the five-year average.

However, the report observes that “prevailing civil insecurity and associated access problems, labour shortages, and disruptions in transport and marketing are expected to significantly impact harvesting and domestic production and supply”.

The governor rates most affected by the current conflict, Nineveh and Salahaddin, on average contribute nearly a third of Iraq’s wheat production and about 38 percent of its barley.

NaijaAgroNet gathered that in Nineveh and Salahaddin governor rates, grain reserves are being depleted and levels of available food via the public distribution system are fast deteriorating. The report further states that the system is the main source of food for the poorest Iraqis, providing them with subsidized rice, wheat flour, oil, sugar and baby milk formula.

In addition to the governor-rates, which are the epicentre of the ongoing conflict and civil insecurity, the northern Kurdish region of Iraq is also under pressure, since it is now hosting a large share of people who have fled their homes in addition to some 225 000 Syrian refugees.

In his reaction to the situation, FAO Representative in Iraq, Fadel El Zubi, state that “If the conflict continues, basic food commodities and other essential items will be increasingly unavailable to the most vulnerable, despite government subsidies,” adding that “The conflict and displacement has also coincided with the peak of summer heat and the holy month of Ramadan, when household expenditures on food and other essential items are normally higher.”

The report forecasts that cereal import requirements for 2014-2015 are now expected to increase saying that in the 2013-2014 marketing year that is just ending, cereal import levels were estimated at 4.26 million tonnes, including 2.7 million tonnes of wheat and 1.3 million tonnes of rice.

 In the FAO report, animal diseases are already a threat to livestock in Iraq and a danger to public health, particularly for refugees and people who have been displaced.

Chukwudi Obi/GEE

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