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Iraq aims to restore agro-food industry


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TradeArabia News Service, 31 August 2018

Iraq is one of the most non-developed countries in the agro-food industry across the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), and is looking towards technological developments to spur expansion and growth opportunities, according to a recent Frost & Sullivan report.

The country lost its glory owing to the wars in the last two decades, extremist conflicts, drought and past sanctions. The development of the agro-food industry slowed since 2003 and the country depended on imports to cater to its essential needs, according to the report titled “Iraq’s Untapped Opportunities; Path to Investment Boom”.

Now that the ISIS conflicts have subsided, stabilization and humanitarian efforts are being taken, along with budgets allocated by large international financiers (Word Bank, IMF, etc.). These measures are expected to revitalize the sector. Food security, self-sufficiency, benefit for poor population in both rural and urban areas are some of the key objectives of Iraqi agro-food policies, as part of the 2018/19 Budget, it said.

As a part of the agro-foods industry, the Iraq packaged foods sector has great potential to grow. Iraq’s population is expected to boom, reaching over 47 million people by 2025, and perhaps as much as 50 million by 2035.

Besides, factors like a large youth population, rise in GDP per capita and ongoing security stabilization programmes are expected to drive the packaged foods market in Iraq. Most importantly, Iraq hosts more than 20 million Shia pilgrims every year which increases the market to more than 60 million people.

Ali Mirmohammad, senior consultant and business development manager at Frost & Sullivan, said: “Canned foods, semi-prepared meals, cereals, pasta, pickles, snacks, and confectioneries are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8-10 percent within the next five years.”

“Flour-based products, dairies, chocolates and confectionary products, canned food, processed meat, tomato pastes and sauces accounted for over 70 percent of the total packaged food market in Iraq,” he said.

Mirmohammad continued: “Poverty reduction and food security programmes supported by World Bank and IMF to raise household disposable incomes and reduce the unemployment rate among youth population are key market drivers for the packaged foods market in the next five years.”

“As a result, it is expected that the quality will be more important than price among mid-level citizens. Western tastes, besides quality of packaging and more natural tastes are going to be more important among youth population in Iraq,” he added.

Mirmohammad said: “The Iraqi food market craves for western style supermarkets and large fast-food chain services in large cities like Baghdad, Basra and KRG region”.

Insufficient agricultural feedstock, expensive logistics and lack of liquidity is the reason for local food companies to lack a competitive edge over international rivals. The initial plan is to leverage managerial and technological leadership of global players to revitalize local manufacturing facilities in dates pressing, dairies, vegetable oils, flour mills, pasta, canned and frozen foods, bottled water, soft drinks and bread products.

An attractive legal framework has been established for greater protection and incentives for new investors. To facilitate investment, the National Investment Law 13 (2006) has been amended to allow non-Iraqis to own land, as well as investment partnerships with state-owned enterprises. The same law exempts foreign companies from tax for up to 10 years and import fees for a period of three years.

TradeArabia News Service

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