(Updates with official’s comment in fifth paragraph.)
Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Iraq will harvest at least 2 million metric tons of wheat in 2011-12 compared with 1.74 million tons in the previous growing season, due to earlier rains, Deputy Agriculture Minister Mehdi al-Qaisi said.
The country aims to grow more than 3 million tons of wheat a year by 2016, with the help of imported rotary sprinklers, he said in an interview today in Baghdad. Late rains crimped grain production last year, and Iraq is developing new varieties of wheat and rice that are more resistant to drought and salinity, al-Qaisi said.
Iraq is one of the world’s top importers of rice and wheat, purchased by the government to supply a food rationing program held over from the Saddam Hussein era that ended in 2003. Soil salinity, poor irrigation and a severe drought in the last three years have combined to make it a buyer on world markets. Iraq consumes about 4.5 million tons of wheat a year, according to government data.
Reduced flows in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers have added to the hardships, and al-Qaisi said Turkey doesn’t allow enough water to enter Iraq, its downstream neighbor.
“The released quantity of water is still limited,” he said.
The Agriculture Ministry is importing irrigation sprinklers and plans to spend 170 billion dinars ($142 million) on the units in the two years ending 2011. Iraqi farmers have traditionally relied on flood-based irrigation to grow crops.
“In this season, rainfalls are expected to be higher than last year,” Iman Shallal, head of the Transportation Ministry’s water and agriculture meteorology department, said in an interview yesterday. “The first rainfall was recorded in September, while in the last year it started in November.”
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