Costs Exceed Revenues: Potato Inflicts Losses on Bashiqa Farmers

Harvesting the potato crop on agricultural land in the Bashiqa district, Nineveh, 2023. Media of Nineveh Agriculture Office

By Ammar Aziz in Nineveh

Hoping to obtain good revenues, Ali Ahmed allocated a plot of land to grow potatoes, but his crop instead of bringing him profit have caused him losses.

The area of land that Ali allocated for growing potatoes is about 80 dunums (8 hectares) and is located in the village of Chanji in the Bashiqa district (east of Mosul), which is one of the fertile and suitable areas for producing potato.

“In just one year, I lost 30 million dinars because the potato crop was not marketed at a suitable price, and I did not receive any compensation,” Ali Ahmed, a farmer and village mayor, told KirkukNow.

The price of one kilogram of potatoes in fruit and vegetable wholesale centers ranges between 100 and 150 (Iraqi) dinars (IQD) (USD0,07-10), and it is sold in the markets for a price ranging between 750 and 1,000 IQD.

“If we sell one kilogram for 250 to 300 dinars, then we will be able to make a profit. Otherwise, farmers will be harmed and forced to sell them at low prices,” Ali says because potatoes are one of the crops that must be harvested immediately and quickly removed from the ground after they mature and then rapidly marketed.

"We do not know whom to ask for help. We cannot abandon agriculture because it is our only source of livelihood... We are not asking them to compensate us. We are only demanding that crops not be allowed to enter Iraq from Iran and Syria," he continued.

The population of Bashiqa district (12 km northeast of Mosul) is estimated at more than 149 thousand people, and is inhabited by a mixture of Shabak, Ezidis (Yazidis) and Christians.

We are only demanding that crops not be allowed to enter Iraq from Iran and Syria

Iraq has achieved self-sufficiency in the potato crop, and it is sometimes exported to the Gulf countries. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, about a thousand dunums of agricultural land in Bashiqa have been allocated for growing potatoes, with the production of each dunum reaching seven to nine tons.

One of the types of potatoes produced in Bashiqa, Nineveh, 2024. KirkukNow

Shaker Yahya, director of agriculture in Bashiqa, told KirkukNow, “The main problem with the potato crop is that it is not marketed at prices that benefits farmers, so instead of making a profit, farmers incur losses.”

There are large quantities of potatoes in the markets, the crop is produced in most governorates, and the heavy rains this year, according to Yahya, had an impact and harmed some farmers.

“In addition, the government does not support farmers,” and the Bashiqa Agriculture Director believes that the solution is for the government itself to buy farmers’ crops and exports them abroad.

Nineveh Governorate is considered the first in potato production, as the area of land cultivated with this crop reached 29,000 dunums and its production reached about 124,000 tons. In the same year, the area of land allocated for potato cultivation throughout Iraq was more than 50,000 dunums, with a production exceeding 270,000 tons, according the Central Bureau of Statistics for 2022.

“Potatoes are worth nothing now in the markets. Every year I grow potatoes in two seasons, spring and fall. I grow 200 to 300 dunams of the crop, and yet we do not profit from it. Last year I suffered losses that reached 15 million dinars.” said Ahmed Muhammad, a farmer in Bashiqa.

Potatoes are worth nothing now in the markets

Muhammad says that the government did not take any steps and did not find solutions to avoid losses for farmers.

 “Farmers are left with nothing but fatigue and costs from their potatoes.”

Despite the challenges posed by climate change and government routine, farming remains a vital sector of Iraq’s economy, ​​providing livelihoods for millions of Iraqis and ensuring part of the country's food security.

About one-eighth of Iraq’s total area is arable, and another one-tenth is permanent pasture. A large proportion of the arable land is in the north and northeast, where rain-fed irrigation dominates and is sufficient to cultivate winter crops, mainly wheat and barley.

In 2022, the Ministry of Agriculture exported more than 30,000 tons of potatoes to the Gulf Countries GCC, yet at the same time did not stop importing the crop from some neighbor countries.

Ghazwan Al-Daoudi, director of Bashiqa district, told KirkukNow, “We support our farmers and provide them with all facilities possible,” but he indicated that he does not know whether the government plans to compensate the farmers or not.

The contribution of agriculture to GDP has been declining in the last decade from 9% in 2002 to 2.8% in 2022, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources.

Potatoes are the main food for two-thirds of the world's population and one of the crops that can adapt to drought, cold, and land infertility, according to the United Nations UN, which expects potato production in the world to increase by 112 percent and the volume of production to reach 750 million tons by 2030.

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