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Iraq's Irrigated Wheat Area to be Cut by Half Because of Water Shortages

  • Iraq, September 13, 2018: As revealed by a government official to the Reuters, Iraq will cut the irrigated area it plants with wheat by half in the 2018-2019 growing season because of the water shortage that is currently gripping the country. Iraq is a major grain buyer in the Middle East. The latest move is likely to significantly raise wheat imports further.

    The Iraqi government has been forced to ban the farmers from planting rice and other water-intensive summer crops due to severe conditions of drought and the dwindling water flows. The water scarcity also led to many street protests across the country in the past few months.

    Deputy Agriculture Minister Mahdi al-Qaisi said irrigated land grown with winter grains, namely wheat and barley, would be halved.

    "The shortage of water resources, climate change and drought are the main reasons behind this decision, our expectation is the area will shrink to half," Qaisi said in an interview.

    Iraq's agricultural plan included 1.6 million hectares of wheat last 2017-2018 season. Of those, around one million hectares were irrigated and the rest relied on rainfall.

    "We expect that the irrigated wheat area falls to half of what it was last year," Qaisi said, implying plantings of 500,000 hectares.

    The cut is expected to lower the country's wheat production by at least 20 percent, implying a significantly higher import bill Fadel al-Zubi, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Iraq Representative said.