Agriculture conference looks to Iraq's future
May 1, 2010
- The conference was designed to find solutions for Iraq's agricultural challenges.
- Iraqi food producers are having difficulty competing with inexpensive food imports from neighboring countries.
- One of the goals of the conference was to help Iraqi government officials identify and fix problems in their region.
COB BASRA, Iraq -- A meeting of agricultural minds took place on Contingency Operating Base Basra, April 27, 2010, focusing on reforming Iraq's agricultural businesses.
Both Soldiers and civilians met for two days to discuss the problems and potential solutions to issues arising in agriculture, fisheries and livestock in southern Iraq.
"This stage is more about making contacts," said Franco Scotti, an Italian agro-economist working with Inma, a private sector agricultural growth development agency.
It is important to make contacts within the local governances of the nine provinces comprising United States Division - South, Scotti said.
One of the goals of the meetings is to teach elected officials how to identify the problems they are encountering and how to go through the proper channels to fix the issues, said Sean Currans, a U.S. Department of Agriculture advisor working on the COB Basra Provincial Reconstruction Team.
"We've engaged the provincial agriculture committee. We had our first meeting in early January," he said. "We're teaching them how to go through the process."
The issues facing the Iraqi agricultural committees are complex and multifaceted. One problem is with food imported from Iran undercutting local Iraqi vendors. Regulations are needed to encourage Iraqis to buy local food, said Maj. Scott Vance, a civil affairs officer with 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division.
Training the Iraqi Agricultural Department in ways to improve their businesses has not been an easy task.
"Producers in Iraq are in an information vacuum," said Jeff Bonner, the Inma regional manager.
Farmers are seeing low harvest yields and a decline in access to international markets. Without the ability to expand, the farmers will continue to struggle, Bonner said.
Agricultural reform in the country will need help, however, and the crucial assistance will come from the Iraqi government, Bonner said.
"More Iraq governmental control is needed," he said. "The goal is to improve practices, techniques and bring in new technology, products and varieties."