News You Really Need To See: “Islamic State’s Hold Squeezes Iraq Food Supply”

“Islamic State’s Hold Squeezes Iraq Food Supply”

The Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2015, p.A12

Mahmoud al-Sayed’s wheat farm just south of Baghdad is hundreds of miles from the nearest front line with Islamic State, but has become a crucial part of the war effort.  The government hopes the farm and others like it in the country’s south can fill a gaping food deficit created by Islamic State’s takeover of three northern provinces that produce about one-third of Iraq’s grain. … The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said last month that Iraq faces serious food-security concerns because of labor shortages and disruptions in transportation and marketing, which are expected to significantly impact harvests, domestic production and supply. The agency warned that lack of security is making food access more difficult for the poor and displaced—a problem that will only grow with food prices likely to rise.  In past years, the decline in wheat stocks might not have been a problem. Iraq could bulk up on imported wheat paid for by its huge oil resources.  But with plummeting oil prices, government revenues are expected to fall by 40% this year, leaving a budget deficit in excess of $20 billion—about a fifth of the budget outlay.  The other side of the balance sheet is driven up by the costs of war. … Thanks to government subsidies, retail flour prices have remained stable throughout the peaceful parts of Iraq.  But industry experts say rapid food inflation is inevitable.  In the conflict zones, food prices are soaring.  This is a particular problem in the three northern provinces dominated by Islamic State—Anbar, Salahudeen and Nineveh. … Islamic State shows no sign of relaxing its hold over the country’s primary farming region.  And in a cruel twist for Iraqis, the northern provinces the group occupies enjoyed a bumper harvest this year thanks to a wet winter, while agricultural regions in the country’s south didn’t because of water shortages and their dependence on irrigation.”

Quickie analysis:  Napoleon is credited with saying “An army marches on its stomach.”  The same could be said of a country.  This will be another heavy burden for the Iraqi people to bear.

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