Aquaculture Demands More Corn in Iraq

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Nov 17, 2022 | Agricultural Markets

Reading time: 2 minute

Plantation of yellow Corn in Iraq takes place twice a year. Spring Corn is planted from the first week of March until around March 20 in South and Central Iraq but extends until the end of March in Northern Iraq. The spring Corn harvest takes place from June until early July. Autumn Corn planting takes place in the first half of July and harvested in the second half of November until the end of December. 

 The USDA forecasts MY 2022/23 production at 185 TMT on a harvested area of 39,000 ha. MOA announced its plan to cut summer plantings by 50 percent because of the low rainfall and extreme water shortages. MY 2021/22 production estimate was 374 TMT based on official data. Harvested area was also revised down to 78,000 ha. Corn harvests declined from previous years due to water shortages. Approximately 7.2 TMT of Corn production was green feed. 

 The MOA has been promoting the higher-yielding, hybrid Corn variety, imported mainly by the private sector from the United States, with yields reportedly at 10 MT per hectare. Imported Turkish seeds cost 600,000-800,000 ID/MT ($504-627/MT), while some imported hybrid seeds, known for exceptionally high yields, may reach 1,000,000 ID/MT ($840/MT). The Iraqi Government does not provide directly subsidized Corn seeds or seeds for other summer crops for its farmers. 

 MY 2022/23 Corn consumption is to reach 1.28 MMT on steady investment in the poultry and aquaculture industry in Iraq. The majority of yellow Corn in Iraq is used by poultry feed mills. However, the Corn used in the aquaculture sector is steadily increasing. Demand for both sub-sectors’ products is growing; therefore, it is expected to continue improving the demand during MY 2022/23. Need that is not met by local production will be supplanted by imports. Feed mills prefer imported Corn, especially of South American origin, due to the quality, moisture rate, and low occurrence of aflatoxins. According to AgFlow data, Argentina and Brazil shipped 0.08 MMT of Corn each in Jan–Nov 2022. 

 MY 2022/23 Corn imports to reach 1 MMT due to low production and imports making up the difference to meet growing demand in the poultry and aquaculture industries, according to the USDA. Iraq’s Corn imports are typically from Argentina, Romania, and Turkey. Turkey supplies almost exclusively northern Iraq via land routes. The Government of Iraq frequently bans Corn imports from November until May. The ban was designed to prevent imported Corn from being mixed with domestic harvest and sold to the MOA at a profit. 

 Previously, MOA purchased local Corn at a fixed price that was often above the international price and distributed the Corn to Iraqi farmers at a subsidized price. However, this subsidy was lifted in 2021, and farmers can sell their products in the free market. Occasionally, the Government will put in place temporary bans to protect Corn farmers from low prices driven by surplus products in the market. Feed mills maintain stocks of imported Corn to mill during the import ban period. MY 2022/23 ending stocks are to fall to 102 TMT. With the elimination of the Corn subsidies, MOA no longer purchases Corn from farmers and therefore is not maintaining any stocks. All stocks are held by private sector storage. 

Iraqi Corn Farm Support

In place of the previous subsidy, MOA agreed with the Governorate of Kirkuk, the largest producer of Corn in Iraq, responsible for 70 percent of production. MOA will issue licenses to the private sector for drying and processing plants in Kirkuk, so farmers can deliver their Corn to these plants to have it processed. The agreement also prohibits the transfer of processed Corn outside of the governorate of Kirkuk. There is no set purchase price for Corn. They are now subject to private sector market prices.

Other sources: USDA

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