An unusually bad drought has forced Iraq to suspend the cultivation of rice, corn and other cereals that demand large amounts of water, the agriculture ministry said Monday.
‘The agricultural plan for the summer’ was modified ‘because the quantities of water needed for these cereals are not available’, spokesman Hamid al-Nayef said.
‘The ministry does not take this decision light heartedly,’ he said, adding that cereal crops would no longer be grown without authorisation from the ministry of water resources.
Rice is a staple of the Iraqi diet.
Nicknamed the ‘land of the two rivers’ due to the presence of the Tigris and Euphrates, Iraq has for years seen its water resources decrease.
Beyond this year's dramatic lack of rain, experts say a central reason for Iraq's creeping drought is the regional sharing of its water resources.
Neighbouring Turkey and Iran in recent years have both rerouted cross-border water sources they share with Iraq.
The start in late June of Turkey's controversial Ilisu dam on the Tigris river is expected to bring a new blow to agriculture and livelihoods across the country.
The dam has provoked anger and concern across Iraq's agricultural community and from Iraqi authorities, already facing social unrest over chronic electricity shortages across the country.
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