Iraq: Basora introducing measures to tackle tomato crisis

The reality of agriculture in the Iraqi Governorate of Basra is dire; its capital suffers tremendous self-sufficiency problems and has to rely almost entirely on fruit and vegetable imports from overseas producers.

Tomatoes are one of the most vital crops for Basra, as it has over 7,000 private farms planting tomatoes, with a production rate of about one million tonnes in 2003, but productivity has suffered a major setback in recent years, with harvest rates dropping by approximately 400,000 tonnes. 

Water scarcity, high rates of salinity and poor government support are some of the causes for the deterioration of tomato cultivation in the province. 

The President of the Committee of the Basra Agriculture Council, F Zaini, said that "the local government in Basra is trying as hard as possible to provide facilities to growers to help them develop the province's agriculture and create appropriate conditions for the re-planting of crops and the opening of relations to tackle Iraq's water shortages and resolve the water crisis."

For his part, the Director of the Department of Agriculture in Zubair, Saleh Hassan Laibi, said that "loans are already being granted for the re-planting of tomato crops ranging from 8 to 10 million dinars."

Laibi pointed to "the importance of these loans to encourage the development of the crop's cultivation and the improvement of the situation," noting that "loans will continue being granted until early November."

Laibi stressed that "the number of tomato farms in the province now stands at only 2,000, while there were over 7,000 in 2003." 

Observers believe that, despite some cases of political corruption, the agricultural initiative launched by the federal government should have a significant impact in stimulating agriculture in the central and southern governorates. 

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