A farmer harvesting his crop in the Kurdistan Region. Photo: Farzin Hassan/Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The Kurdish ministry of agriculture has increased its estimates for barley production in 2017-18 in its latest forecast update for the Kurdistan Region.
The ministry says large numbers of Kurdish farmers moved away from growing wheat in 2016 following disputes between Baghdad and Erbil over wheat production in the Kurdistan Region which resulted in heavily delayed compensation to Kurdish farmers from the central government in Baghdad.
Barley production in Kurdistan has been raised to 209,000 tonnes from 145,000 tonnes over the past four years, according to the ministry data which also predicts the steady increase to continue over the coming years.
“It’s true that wheat is worth more money, but I don’t get the payment right away, which is why I find it better to grow barley even if it’s worth half of wheat, at least I get the payment right into my pocket,” said Osman Hamza, a Kurdish farmer in Palanyi village near Erbil.
Iraq’s Ministry of Agriculture announced last year that in order to buy Kurdish farmers wheat crop in the future, the farmers will need to give detailed and documented information about how and where they have produced their goods.
Baghdad has raised doubts over the speedy increase of wheat production in the Kurdish controlled territories of Iraq and accused ministry of agriculture in Erbil of selling exported wheat crop from other Kurdish areas in Syria, Turkey and Iran as their own harvest, a charge that Kurdish authorities have strongly denied.
Kurdish wheat crop increased by 18 percent in 2015 while Iraq’s total production fell nearly 10 percent, according to the ministry data.
Kurdish farmers have not been fully compensated for the past three years, a growing debt which now amounts to over 902 billion dinars (ca $767 million).
In April this year, however, Kurdish wheat growers received their first compensation installment from the Iraqi government for their sold wheat crop in 2016, an installment amounting to nearly 223 billion dinars (ca $190 million).
“The price of wheat has fallen greatly, from 792,000 dinars (ca $677) to 560,000 dinars (ca $560) a ton, and even so farmers do not receive payments on a regular bases,” said Farouq Ali at the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources in Erbil, predicting that greater numbers of farmers to turn to growing barley in the coming years.
According to Ali despite the financial crisis in Kurdistan, the demand for barley, primarily from livestock owners, has increased which will keep the price relatively high at around 420,000 dinars, he said.