“Look at us begging for food despite the fortunes we have,” 60-year-old Um Muthanna from
“A country with two great rivers should have been the biggest exporter in the world, but now we beg for food from those who participated in killing us.”
Local and international aid flooded into
The food the Iraqis did get was often not what they needed, or wanted.
“Iraqis do not feel at ease receiving food aid when they exported food in the past,” economist Dr. Jassim al-Rikabi told IPS.
Barley, wheat, pulses and the famous Iraqi dates are staple diet, and are also exported. Common meals in
Under the occupation, Iraqis are getting much of their food from companies in
During July 2006 the Iraqi Ministry of Trade rejected or destroyed thousands of tonnes of contaminated food or food past its expiry date. The food had caused widespread poisoning.
Dr. Rikabi holds both the U.S.-backed Iraqi government and
The security situation and lack of petrol mean that local farmers are often unable to get their food to the markets.
Changes in Iraqi import laws introduced by former administrator L. Paul Bremer, dropped tariffs on import of foreign products, making it impossible for Iraqi farmers to compete. Countless Iraqi farms went bankrupt.
But now prices of imported goods have increased dramatically. And so most of the food in Iraqi markets today is imported, and more expensive due to skyrocketing fuel costs and lack of government regulation. Imported foods like chicken, fruits and vegetables now cost more than locally grown foods.
“Local agricultural production is almost nil,” Majid al-Dulaymi from the Ministry of Agriculture told IPS. “The limited loans given by the ministry to farmers and planters are misused simply because it is not possible to maintain the agriculture production for reasons well known to everybody here. Now the private sector is importing everything, and the prices are too high to afford.”
An official from the Ministry of Trade said his ministry is struggling to provide Iraqis with food rations as before, but the circumstances make it difficult.
“There is the security ordeal that we suffer as well as the problems we had with many companies that supplied us bad quality food,” he told IPS.
The majority of Iraqis still remain dependent on the monthly food ration, a programme set up during the economic sanctions period in the 1990s after the first Gulf war. But a growing number of Iraqis no longer receive their monthly ration due to corruption or sectarian favouritism in the distribution channel.
Statistics compiled by the Washington-based Brookings Institute during 2005 showed that nearly 60 percent of the Iraqi population regularly consumes the monthly food rations. And 25 percent, 6.5 million people, are “highly dependent” on rations to meet their nutritional needs.
According to Abdul-Lattif from
“What food ration are you talking about,” 35-year-old Um Jamila, a mother of five complained to IPS. “The whole country has been stolen from us. If this goes on another six months, we will be just like any starving country.”
A report released Jan. 30 by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) showed that 1.5 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in
Entitled ‘Iraq Displacement 2006 Year in Review’, the report puts food at the top of the list of the most urgent needs for IDPs in
“I was so happy when my salary was increased to around 300 dollars, but I now wish for the times when it was 30 dollars as it used to be before this occupation,” engineer Kamil Fattah from the Ministry of Industry told IPS. “Inflation in the Iraqi market has made it impossible for us to eat decently while earlier we used to get every basic need for almost free of charge.”
The World Food Programme is sending aid to
“The food is either stolen on the way or cannot be inspected on arrival by third party inspectors,” a retired staff member of the Food and Agriculture Organisation which runs the World Food Programme told IPS. “Each shipment needs to be checked by a third party inspector, but the company is facing difficulties in conducting such inspections due to the security situation.”