The Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture clarified on Sunday its plan related to wheat cultivation in the winter season, confirming that endeavors are ongoing to make the wheat crop self-sufficient.

The spokesperson of the Agriculture Ministry, Muhammad Al-Khuzaie, told the Iraqi News Agency (INA) that the ministry prepared 8,500 square kilometers to plant wheat in the coming season.

Al-Khuzaie elaborated that the ministry aims to increase wheat production to more than six million tons after producing 5.2 million tons in the previous season.

The Iraqi Prime Minister, Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani, said last September that Iraq has wheat reserves sufficient for a year after a successful season.

The Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture mentioned earlier that Iraq, where the population is 43 million people, requires between 4.5 million and 5 million tons of wheat every year.

The huge yield produced in 2023 reflects the shift towards cultivating wheat in desert areas using groundwater instead of Iraq’s decreasing river water, as the country is going through the worst drought recorded in its history.

The Iraqi Minister of Agriculture, Abbas Jabr, said last March that wheat production in Iraq is expected to reach four million tons during the 2022–2023 season.

Jabr explained that the increase in production is a result of the government’s plan to cultivate 4,000 square kilometers in desert lands and 2,500 square kilometers in other parts of Iraq.

Iraq was self-sufficient in wheat during the three years before the war in Ukraine, with production of 4.7 million tons in 2019, 6.2 million tons in 2020, and about 4.2 million tons in 2021.

However, factors such as water scarcity and desertification led to a decrease in the local production of wheat, which reached about three million tons last season, prompting the Iraqi government to import wheat to cover the shortfall.

The lack of rain in the winter season constitutes the most significant challenge to the production of agricultural crops in Iraq, including wheat, rice, and barley.

By Amr Salem