By Dr. Bayad Jamal Ali:
Come with me to visit a typical mini market and grocery store in Kurdistan, and let us explore the items one by one. Then let us examine the proportion of locally-produced food (bread, meat, fruits, vegetables and dairy) and focus on these strategic products one by one. In this process let us invite a representative from the Agriculture Ministry, representing the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and let us also invite a representative from the Kurdistan Security Agency (Asayesh). Now let all of us as a team remove the imported products from this grocery store, and let the government representatives be witness to the process; so we will keep only the locally-produced food in the grocery store.
Let us take a look again now: what is left on the shelves?
I urge all of you to do this experiment as a collective project and share the results with us! We will start with the first basic requirement, which is bread of different kinds. According to the Iraqi Ministry of Trade, grain production in Iraq is 1.1 million tons this season; whereas the estimated total requirement for grain is 6.5 million tons. Even at the highest level of production, before losing important grain-growing areas in recent conflicts, Iraq imported more than half of its requirement, and of course this applies to Kurdistan too since the KRG is related to Baghdad in this matter.
In observing the meat section, we will find that there are both local products and imported ones; what is important here is to take into consideration the local products. Most of the animal feed is imported, and also the vaccines, medical requirements and most of the ingredients to rear the animals and chickens in order get their meat.
Furthermore, let us examine the different types of dairy products from milk, different types of cheese, yogurt and all the other related products, and for sure we will find that at least 90% are imported.
Then let us look at the fruit and vegetables section, and I urge that, next time you go grocery shopping, just see how many locally-produced items you will find in the whole store. On this short trip to the grocery store, we will see how weak our local production is. So we wonder: if we were to face a situation like we’ve faced in recent days, of
the border being closed from the Turkish side because of the ongoing conflict, how long will we last?
The critical issue is to highligh the urgency here, and we will in future go into more detail, item by item. One barrier is the red tape and bureaucracy that makes it difficult to obtain any statistics from the government agencies.
In the end, society, the government, and each individual need to realize that, as much as homeland security and protection from terrorists and criminals are crucial to the region, food security has as much importance if not more. Gibran Khalil Gibran says: “Pity the Nation That Eats a Bread It Doesn’t Harvest”