Building competitiveness of the potato sector in Iraq
In a country mired by unemployment and over-dependence on oil resources, the Iraqi potato sector holds untapped potential for growth. Over the next few years, potatoes are expected to be the second highest in demand after tomatoes in the Iraqi horticulture sector.
Ahmed Hussain Mohammed grows potatoes on his farm in Ninewah, an area that was still occupied by ISIS five years ago.
He attended a governorate level round of consultation held in Mosul recently, as part of efforts to support the development of the potato sector strategy in Iraq.
“Ninewah is considered the breadbasket of Iraq, as it provides food to all governorates. Potatoes are a strategic product for the region,” Ahmed said.
A similar governorate level consultation was also held in Baghdad on 14 February.
Public and private sector representatives, including farmers, processors, traders, retailers, and agri-support business services, as well as development partners actively engaged in the rounds of consultations.
These consultations are a milestone towards the elaboration of the national strategy for the potato sector.
The strategy will provide a roadmap to improve competitiveness of farmers and small and medium enterprises, in line with the priorities set by the government. It is accompanied by a detailed 5-year Plan of Action with measurable and prioritized actions. It builds on structured discussions with farmers and small businesses.
The Ministry of Agriculture is leading the preparation of the strategy with the International Trade Centre facilitating the elaboration of the potato sector strategy within the framework of the European Union-funded project, “Strengthening the agriculture and agri-food value chain and improving trade policy in Iraq” (SAAVI).
Beyond the participatory nature of the process, the development of the strategy is also based on solid evidence and research. More than 500 competitiveness surveys focusing on agribusinesses and farmers were completed throughout the country. Over 3000 interviews were conducted at the national level with consumers as well as with representatives from various stakeholder groups, such as traders, wholesalers, and retailers, to help better understand market demand, and identify areas of improvement and market opportunities.
The efforts built upon the successful development of ITC-facilitated Iraq’s Tomato and Poultry Sustainable Development Strategies (2022-2026), under the leadership of the Government of Iraq. The strategies were endorsed by the Ministry of Agriculture and officially launched in July 2022 and are currently under implementation. A National Core Team formed by key public and private sector representatives has been established to provide guidance to the implementation of the strategies. It also oversees the design process of the potato sector strategy.
The next round of consultations will be held in May, in the presence of international potato sector experts, prominent companies, and senior government officials.
About SAAVI: The ‘Strengthening the Agriculture and Agri-Food Value Chain and Improving Trade Policy’ (SAAVI) project, funded by the European Union, focuses on the development and implementation of sector strategies for high-potential products, as well as on defining market-oriented policies to improve predictability and efficiency in the business environment. SAAVI also helps enhance Iraq’s trade policy and supports the country in its WTO accession process.
SAAVI is implemented under the leadership of the Government of Iraq through the Ministry of Planning, Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Trade.
The project forms part of the overall European Union Special measure for supporting employment creation and improving economic governance in Iraq.