Iraq is facing a potential food crisis as increasingly aggressive conquests by the Islamic State have reduced its agricultural industry to producing 40% of its expected output, according to the Iraqi government.
Iraqi Minister of Agriculture Ghazi al-Abboudi announced the dire figure this week, noting that the Iraqi government had previously planned to “achieve self-sufficiency” by 2015, but that goal was rendered impossible by the Islamic State’s control over a large area of territory in the north.
In addition to facing severe problems with producing enough crops to satisfy the population’s need, Abboudi explained that, during the course of many of the government’s battles with the Islamic State, much of the nation’s agricultural infrastructure had been destroyed: “the infrastructure of the agricultural sector has been destroyed in these areas, and we have to start from scratch.”
The current situation is the result of months of expansion within Iraq on the part of the Islamic State. As early as last November, Abboudi’s predecessor, Falah Hassan al-Zeidan, warned that northern Nineveh province and areas controlled by the Islamic State were in danger of facing famine– not just because of a lack of production, but because the Islamic State had begun using crops meant to feed the people of Iraq to keep Raqqa from falling into a complete crisis state.
These agricultural deficiencies are triggering concern that Iraq is heading towards an impending famine during the spring season if the production of essential crops, such as wheat, diminishes exponentially. As Reuters notes, the area currently under Islamic State control is typically expected to yield 40% of the nation’s annual wheat crop, and farmers speaking to the news agency expressed concern and frustration that they no longer had access to their land. The season for planting the wheat, so that it may be harvested in the spring, just ended.
The agricultural concerns also echo troubles reported to have begun plaguing Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq and the largest city in the nation under Islamic State control. After taking control of the food supply in the city in order to starve out Christian residents in July, the terrorists have found it difficult to properly regulate the city. Reports from journalists inside Mosul tell of a significant lack of food and potable water, as the jihadists have failed to establish a reliable drinking water supply. The city is also severely lacking in health services and basic government functions, except for a roving “morality police” that attacks anyone who appears to be wearing substandard burqas or displaying “haram” artwork. Similar reports have arisen from Raqqa, Syria, the proposed “capital” of the Islamic State, which has been under the terrorist organization’s control for longer than Mosul.