Cropping and Livestock
Most farming in Iraq
entails planting and harvesting a single crop per year. In the
rain-fed areas the winter crop, primarily grain, is planted in
the fall and harvested in the spring. In the irrigated areas of
central and southern Iraq, summer crops predominate. A little
multiple cropping, usually of vegetables, exists where irrigation
water is available over more than a single season.
Even with some double or triple cropping, the intensity of cultivation
is usually on the order of 50 percent because of the practice
of leaving about half the arable land fallow each year. In the
rain-fed region, land is left fallow so that it can accumulate
moisture. The fertility of fallow land is also increased by plowing
under weeds and other plant material that grow during the fallow
period. On irrigated land, fallow periods also contribute some
humus to the soil.
Grain, primarily wheat and barley, was Iraq's most important
crop. Cereal production increased almost 80 percent between 1975
and 1985, notwithstanding wide variations in the harvest from
year to year as the amount and the timing of rainfall strongly
affected both the area planted and the harvest. Between 1980 and
1985, the area under wheat cultivation increased steadily for
a cumulative growth of 30 percent, to about 1,566,500 hectares.
In 1985, the most recent year for which statistics were available
in 1988, Iraq harvested a bumper crop of 1.4 million tons of wheat.
In 1984, a drought year, Iraq harvested less than half the planted
area for a yield of between 250,000 and 471,000 tons, according
to foreign and Iraqi sources respectively. The north and central
rain-fed areas were the principal wheat producers (see table 7,
Barley requires less water than wheat does, and it is more tolerant
of salinity in the soil. For these reasons, Iraq started to substitute
barley production for wheat production in the 1970s, particularly
in southern regions troubled by soil salinity. Between 1980 and
1985, the total area under barley cultivation grew 44 percent,
and by 1985 barley and wheat production were virtually equal in
terms both of area cultivated and of total yield. Rice, grown
in paddies, was Iraq's third most important crop as measured by
cultivated area, which in 1985 amounted to 24,500 hectares. The
area under cultivation, however, did not grow appreciably between
1980 and 1985; 1985 production totaled almost 150,000 tons. Iraq
also produced maize, millet, and oil seeds in smaller quantities.
A number of other crops were grown, but acreage and production
were limited. With the exception of tobacco, of which Iraq produced
17,000 tons on 16,500 hectares in 1985, cash crop production declined
steeply in the 1980s. Probably because of domestic competition
from synthetic imports and a declining export market, production
of cotton was only 7,200 tons in 1985, compared with 26,000 tons
in 1977. Production of sugar beets was halted completely in 1983,
and sugarcane production declined by more than half between 1980
Iraq may have cut back on production of sugar beets and sugarcane
because of an intention to produce sugar from dates. Dates, of
which Iraq produces eight distinct varieties, have long been a
staple of the local diet. The most abundant date groves were found
along the Shatt al Arab. In the early 1960s, more than 30 million
date palms existed. In the mid-1970s, the Iraqi government estimated
that the number of date palms had declined to about 22 million,
at which time production of dates amounted to 578,000 tons. The
devastation of the Shatt al Arab area during the Iran-Iraq War
hastened the destruction of date palm groves, and in 1985 the
government estimated the number of date palms at fewer than 13
million. Date production in 1987 dropped to 220,000 tons. The
government-managed Iraqi Date Administration, however, planned
to increase production in an attempt to boost export revenue.
In 1987 about 150,000 tons, or 68 percent of the harvest, was
exported, primarily to Western Europe, Japan, India, and other
Arab countries. The Iraqi Date Administration also devised plans
to construct large facilities to extract sugar, alcohol, vinegar,
and concentrated protein meal from dates. Iraq produced a variety
of other fruits as well, including melons, grapes, apples, apricots,
and citrus. Production of such fruits increased almost 30 percent
between 1975 and 1985.
Vegetable production also increased, particularly near urban
centers, where a comparatively sophisticated marketing system
had been developed. Vegetable gardening usually employed relatively
modern techniques, including the use of chemical fertilizers and
pesticides. Tomatoes were the most important crop, with production
amounting to more than 600,000 tons in 1985. Other vegetables
produced in significant quantity were beans, eggplant, okra, cucumbers,
and onions. Overall vegetable production increased almost 90 percent
between 1975 and 1985, even though the production of legumes dropped
about 25 percent over the same period.
Crop production accounted for about two-thirds of value added
in the agricultural sector in the late 1980s, and the raising
of livestock contributed about one-third. In the past, a substantial
part of the rural population had been nomadic, moving animals
between seasonal grazing areas. Sheep and goats were the most
important livestock, supplying meat, wool, milk, skins, and hair.
A 1978 government survey, which represented the most recent official
data available as of early 1988, estimated the sheep population
at 9.7 million and the goat population at 2.1 million. Sheep and
goats were tended primarily by nomadic and seminomadic groups.
The 1978 survey estimated the number of cattle at 1.7 million,
the number of water buffalo at 170,000, the number of horses at
53,000, and the number of camels at 70,000.
In the 1970s, the government started to emphasize livestock and
fish production, in an effort to add protein to the national diet.
But 1985's red meat production (about 93,000 tons) and milk production
(375,000 tons) were, respectively, about 24 and 23 percent less
than the in 1975 totals, although other figures indicated that
total livestock production remained stable between 1976 and 1985.
In the mid-1980s, however, British, West German, and Hungarian
companies were given contracts to establish poultry farms. At
the same time, the government expanded aquaculture and deep-sea
fishing. Total production of processed chicken and fish almost
doubled, to about 20,000 tons apiece, from 1981 to 1985, while
egg production increased substantially, to more than 1 billion
per year. The government planned to construct a US$160 million
deep-sea fishing facility in Basra and predicted that, within
10 years, freshwater fishing would supply up to 100,000 tons of
fish. Iraq nevertheless continued to import substantial quantities
of frozen poultry, meat, and fish to meet local needs for protein.
Data as of May 1988