Chapter 7: Agriculture and the public distribution system
Iraq, along with Turkey, is one of the few countries in the Middle East with sufficient water for large-scale agriculture (Ahmad 2002, p. 170; Savello 2009a, Table 2, p. 2). It is well known that Iraq was an agricultural cornucopia throughout most of its history, so it is surprising that currently Iraq is a large net-importer of agricultural products. This change has more to do with the mismanagement of the agriculture and agribusiness sectors by a succession of regimes than any fundamental change in the Iraqi agricultural environment. As can be seen in Figure 7.1, Iraq has three different climates. The southwest region is a relatively flat, very arid desert. Mean annual rainfall is only 100 to 170 millimeters (four to seven inches). At the other extreme, the northeast of the country is mountainous with a Mediterranean type climate. Annual precipitation ranges from 760 to 1000 millimeters (30 to 40 inches); sufficient for rain-fed agriculture. In between is a band of semi-arid climate that stretches from the Syrian and Turkish borders in the northwest to the Persian Gulf in the southeast. Out of Iraq’s four largest cities, two cities – Baghdad and Basrah – and most of the country’s population are in this semi-arid region. In central Iraq, typical temperatures range from 40°C (100°F) in July and August to 17°C (64°F) in the winter, although highs of 48°C (120°F) and lows below freezing have been known.
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