Diyala province in Iraq is acclaimed for its orange farms. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Due to cheaper imports Iraq’s once glorious capital of oranges, Diyala province, is struggling to sell local product, leading to officials, producers, and vendors imploring the government for a ban on imports.
“Diyala province was the first to produce oranges [in Iraq]. However in the last few years, production isn’t enough to meet the demand of the province,” said orange producer Abu Omer.
They used to send their locally produced oranges across the country.
Another producer, Abo Suud, explained the current harvest “doesn’t suffice even [to feed their] children.” He said they can’t afford to buy soil and seeds because of funding shortages and revenue and low sales.
The main reason for the drop in sales is due to less expensive orange imports — especially from Egypt and Turkey.
“No one buys local oranges. There is a lot of it, but the customers buy Turkish and Egyptian oranges,” said vendor Asaad Jaduu’, while imploring the government of Iraq to ban imports.
“The Iraqi orange is very good and has a good price, but people like the imports because they are cheaper. We call on the government to ban imports so the Iraqi farmer benefits,” said Anmar Hamid, another agricultural vendor.
Diyala’s Directorate of Agriculture revealed efforts are underway to restore the local market. It called on officials to end imports of citrus fruits.
“We hope to return production to [levels] like in the past. We need the help of relevant authorities, which can ban import of citrus fruits,” said Hussein Khadhir, director of Diyala’s Agricultural Directorate.
If imports are banned, producers and sellers could adjust the price of local oranges in order to be not too expensive for consumers while still bringing in cash for farmers.
Both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region are yet to be self-sufficient in agriculturally. They heavily depend on imports from Iran and Turkey, respectively Iraq’s two largest trade partners. Iran has banned the export of numerous fruits due to US trade sanctions.
While Kurdistan may have a chance to reach self-sufficiency in certain products, Iraq has a lower opportunity due to decreasing water resources from the once mighty Tigris and Euphrates.
Diyala is in north central Iraq. Parts are disputed and claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad. It is currently under the administration of the Iraqi federal government.