Challenges in Iraq’s Agriculture Sector

By Ronald P Verdonk, Agricultural Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Iraqi agriculture, like other sectors of the economy, has a lot of catching up to do in order to create jobs and play a more significant role in boosting GNP.

Production of grain, vegetables and fruit faces a range of challenges of which the following are the most significant:

  • reduced water availability made worse by inefficient irrigation systems;
  • intermittent electricity;
  • substandard seed quality with few commercially appropriate varieties available;
  • insufficient fertilizer, insecticide and herbicide supply;
  • under-mechanized production;
  • a land tenure system that precludes economies of scale; and
  • time-consuming/costly import inspection procedures to the extent feed components like corn and soybean meal, for example, are needed.

Iraq is increasing its use of drip irrigation and greenhouse vegetable production and has an improved supply of locally grown fruits and vegetables though imports of cheap, good quality products from neighboring countries are widely available.

The animal production sector is a key resource base for food security and economic growth in Iraq. Small ruminants – sheep and goats – offer the ability to reproduce on poor quality forage and minimal water. The poultry and fish sector are also enjoying some resurgence but are limited by obstacles to imported feeds.

Due to the interruption in flow of technology and ideas that has occurred since the 1980s, Iraqi agriculture has been unable to stay abreast of agricultural technology developments both in terms of personnel and inputs, and Iraq has become more dependent on imports of agricultural products.

As Iraqi security strengthens and the economy regains its footing, there is little question that Iraqi agriculture can produce more to ensure a greater measure of food security, though under any realistic scenario Iraq will remain dependent upon food imports.

Ronald P Verdonk is an Agricultural Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. He has extensive experience in the agriculture sector, including placements in a wide range of developing economies.

2 Responses to Challenges in Iraq’s Agriculture Sector

  1. ken February 12, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    do you think the dinar will rv? thanks ken louisiana

  2. islam August 24, 2011 at 1:55 am #

    Thanks so much Mr.Ronald, I am a ugandan here in africa and Uganda is an agricultural hub where we grow crops throughout all the year. There solutions to Iraq agricultural system , consider the Northern Uganda a semi desert with no water but they grow cereals and cotton as the main region that helps uganda to export such products . And i think tackling more on the electricty and personnel would be my point focus.We are in the Renewable Energy series today its like an evolution where even when a person has HEP he adds on Solar power. And personel i think employing personel you can also strategize on mordenizing agriculture in Iraq.