The lack of security in Iraq is leading now to a
collapse in food supplies.
"Look at us begging for food despite the fortunes we have," 60-year-old Um
from Baghdad told IPS. Standing at a vegetable market in central Baghdad
supplies are not what they used to be, Um Mahmood despaired for Iraq.
"A country with two great rivers should have been the biggest exporter in
the world, but
now we beg for food from those who participated in killing us." Iraq is
rich in oil and
Local and international aid flooded into Iraq in 2004, the year following
the invasion, but
much of the supply was blocked off after the kidnapping of many aid
activists in the
The food the Iraqis did get was often not what they needed, or wanted.
"Iraqis do not feel at ease receiving food aid when they exported food in
the past," economist Dr. Jassim al-Rikabi told IPS.
"Iraq has been a field of aid NGOs since the U.S. occupation began, and
many of those
NGOs brought foodstuff that is not what Iraqis were used to, but they had
to take it due to
the need they were facing."
Barley, wheat, pulses and the famous Iraqi dates are staple diet, and are
Common meals in Iraq include rice, lamb, chicken and locally grown
cucumbers, onions and tomatoes.
Under the occupation, Iraqis are getting much of their food from companies
and other countries who assisted the United States during the invasion and
This food has often been of low quality.
During July 2006 the Iraqi Ministry of Trade rejected or destroyed
thousands of tonnes of
contaminated food or food past its expiry date. The food had caused
Dr. Rikabi holds both the U.S.-backed Iraqi government and U.S. occupation
responsible for the failing food supply. "By the end of 2005 most
international NGOs had
withdrawn from Iraq on the orders of their governments, who saw the
writing on the wall
of increasing sectarian violence."
The security situation and lack of petrol mean that local farmers are
often unable to get
their food to the markets.
Changes in Iraqi import laws introduced by former administrator L. Paul
tariffs on import of foreign products, making it impossible for Iraqi
farmers to compete.
Countless Iraqi farms went bankrupt.
But now prices of imported goods have increased dramatically. And so most
of the food in
Iraqi markets today is imported, and more expensive due to skyrocketing
fuel costs and
lack of government regulation. Imported foods like chicken, fruits and
vegetables now cost
more than locally grown foods.
"Local agricultural production is almost nil," Majid al-Dulaymi from the
Agriculture told IPS. "The limited loans given by the ministry to farmers
and planters are
misused simply because it is not possible to maintain the agriculture
reasons well known to everybody here. Now the private sector is importing
the prices are too high to afford."
An official from the Ministry of Trade said his ministry is struggling to
provide Iraqis with
food rations as before, but the circumstances make it difficult.
"There is the security ordeal that we suffer as well as the problems we
had with many
companies that supplied us bad quality food," he told IPS.
Australia provided Iraq with wheat last year that when distributed was
found to contain
steel fragments. An investigation conducted by Iraqi officials has still
not held any
The majority of Iraqis still remain dependent on the monthly food ration,
a programme set
up during the economic sanctions period in the 1990s after the first Gulf
war. But a
growing number of Iraqis no longer receive their monthly ration due to
sectarian favouritism in the distribution channel.
Statistics compiled by the Washington-based Brookings Institute during
2005 showed that
nearly 60 percent of the Iraqi population regularly consumes the monthly
And 25 percent, 6.5 million people, are "highly dependent" on rations to
According to Abdul-Lattif from Iraq's Ministry of Trade, only sugar, rice,
flour and cooking
oil remain from the original 12 foodstuffs provided by the former
government. Other items
such as lentils were removed from the list in May 2006 as a result of
"What food ration are you talking about," 35-year-old Um Jamila, a mother
complained to IPS. "The whole country has been stolen from us. If this
goes on another six
months, we will be just like any starving country."
A report released Jan. 30 by the International Organisation for Migration
(IOM) showed that
1.5 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Iraq lack basic
necessities such as
adequate food, drinking water, sanitation, and health and education
Entitled 'Iraq Displacement 2006 Year in Review', the report puts food at
the top of the list
of the most urgent needs for IDPs in Iraq.
"I was so happy when my salary was increased to around 300 dollars, but I
now wish for
the times when it was 30 dollars as it used to be before this occupation,"
Fattah from the Ministry of Industry told IPS. "Inflation in the Iraqi
market has made it
impossible for us to eat decently while earlier we used to get every basic
need for almost
free of charge."
The World Food Programme is sending aid to Iraq but its officials say this
is running into
"The food is either stolen on the way or cannot be inspected on arrival by
inspectors," a retired staff member of the Food and Agriculture
Organisation which runs
the World Food Programme told IPS. "Each shipment needs to be checked by a
inspector, but the company is facing difficulties in conducting such
inspections due to the
Copyright © 2007 IPS-Inter Press Service