Region's farmers throw away produce after prices undercut by imports

Calls for government intervention
Qahtan, one of the farmers, speaks to NRT on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 as he threw away his tomatoes after not being able to sell it at a satisfactory price in the market in the Kurdistan Region. (Photo NRT Digital Media/ Screenshot)

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SULAIMANI – Due to competition from cheaper imports, farmers in the Kurdistan Region have been throwing away their produce since their tomatoes and cucumbers are rarely bought on the open market.

One farmer, Qahtan, told NRT Digital Media that he had spent 10 million Iraqi dinars growing his crop of tomatoes, but said that he had not even earned 2 million dinars selling them at the market.

“The ministry of agriculture and water resources should respond to the farmers’ outcry and stop importing agricultural products,” he said.

“[My tomatoes] do not make any money. We're left with only exhaustion and debt as a result.”

Compounding this, the cost of harvesting their crop is often more than what they can get at the market, leading some to let their crop rot in the field.

Spokesperson for the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources Hussein Hama Karim told NRT Digital Media that the problem is bigger than just local market trends and is influenced by farmers and governments in southern and central Iraq and neighboring countries as well.

“The problem is temporary and related to production timing. We are currently busy devising plans for the [coming] four years in order to serve the needs of farmers and find export markets for local products,” he added.

In the past, the federal government has suspended imports or imposed tariffs to support local producers. It is unclear whether it is planning any intervention in the near future.

(NRT Digital Media)