October 4, 2018 / 10:07 AM / 12 days ago

Iraq to cut winter crop area by 55 percent on water shortages

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq’s agriculture ministry said on Thursday it would reduce its 2018-2019 winter crop planting area by 55 percent due to a water shortage.

Iraq will grow around 315,266 hectares of wheat on irrigated land, a statement by the ministry said.

Reuters reported in September that Iraq, a major Middle East grain buyer, would cut its irrigated wheat area by half in the 2018-2019 growing season.

Iraq has a current water reserve of 11 billion cubic meters, 4 billion cubic meters less than last year, the ministry said in a statement.

The current water situation means Iraq will grow 55 percent less irrigated winter crops than last year, the ministry said.

“The agriculture and water ministries will look into the possibility of increasing cultivated areas should the water situation change,” it said.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has told Reuters the cut could shrink Iraq’s wheat crop by around 20 percent, implying higher imports.

Iraq imports wheat to supply a rationing program created in 1991 to combat U.N. economic sanctions, including flour, cooking oil, rice, sugar and baby milk formula.

The trade ministry is responsible for procuring strategic commodities, including wheat, for the program.

Reporting by Moayed Kenany; writing by Maha El Dahan; editing by Jason Neely and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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