By Patrick Schmidt.
While the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) conquest of oil fields and major dams has garnered the attention of the international community, the seizure of some of Iraq’s most valuable farmland has not received the same amount of attention.
ISIL has large portions of Iraq’s top five most productive provinces of farmland. It is estimated they now control up to forty percent of the wheat market and thirty percent of overall agricultural production in Iraq.
Similar to their exploitation of oil resources, ISIL has raided wheat storage silos and they have milled freshly harvested wheat. Some wheat produced by ISIL has been sold locally or sold to Iraqis outside of the militant-declared Islamic State (IS).
Such sales turn an easy profit to fund the militants’ activities. This is similar tactic to ISIL’s exploitation of capture energy resources.
ISIL has used intimidation and violence to force local farmers to comply with their new found agricultural policies. So far, no payment has been made to farmers in the Islamic State, which means they will have no funds to plant next year’s crop. While there are no short-term threats to the food supply, the long-term looks uncertain.