The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced plans on Wednesday to support the growth of greenhouses, to develop infrastructure on farming and other food-production, and increase tariffs charged on imported agricultural goods as part of efforts to make the Kurdistan Region more self-sustainable.
Aside from the obvious economic advantages of boosting local agriculture, it also is a key prerequisite to becoming as “food independent” as possible, an issue that has emerged in the minds of many after seeing the effects of both the coronavirus and shortages that resulted from embargoes Baghdad imposed on the autonomous region after its independence referendum of late 2017.
Over the past few years, farmers in the Kurdistan Region have called on the KRG to block the significant flow of foreign products that are already produced or grown domestically, lowering market prices to the point where it is difficult to make a living.
“Now that our local agricultural products are growing, we have increased taxes on agricultural imports,” said Hussein Hama-Karim, the spokesperson for the KRG’s Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources to local media. “In previous years, 350 IQD was charged for each kilogram of imported potatoes, but this year we have increased that to 600 IQD. The same has been done with tomatoes and most other imported produce.”
Hama-Karim continued, “We have a long-term plan for the use of greenhouses in the Kurdistan Region to grow and produce products all year long. We will provide them with 50 liters of fuel on a monthly basis for heat in the wintertime and this will have a significant effect on agricultural production for all 12 months of a year.”
“In terms of farming products, we will fill domestic demand and will have the capacity to export it as well,” added Hama-Karim, mentioning that “we have plans to fill the local demand for poultry as well and provide local eggs, growing so we are able to send poultry to the rest of the Iraq provinces.”
In February, a ministry delegation met with its federal Iraqi counterparts in Baghdad to discuss a range of topics that included the compensation of Kurdish farmers for grain delivered to the central government.
Hama-Karim further explained that “the decision of regulating the tax system, prevent any tax evasion, and averting smuggling will encourage stakeholders to support our farmers in investing in local farming products and further develop agriculture in the region.”
According to assessments recently conducted by the KRG’s Board of Investment and released in January, the Kurdistan Region could eventually provide up to 63 percent of its overall income solely from agriculture, industry, and tourism if they are properly developed and funded.