KRG begins buying wheat from farmers for the first time

 The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) began buying wheat from farmers on Tuesday for the first time, following the completion of the newly constructed multimillion-dollar Wheat Marketing Project this year.

Sherzad Jaffar, head of Khoshanw Company's geometrical projects, told Rudaw's Mohammed Sheikh Fatih on Tuesday, "We want to make sure that the farmers have a safe market for selling their crops as they plant their fields."

"They don’t need to be worried about sending their crops to Iraq and wait for their mercy to send the money or not. We pay them right after they hand over their wheat,” he assured the farmers.

Jaffar also said the process of buying the wheat would take 45 days, from June 8 to July 22. This year, they plan to buy 200,000 tons of wheat.

Begard Talabani, the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources, said on Saturday they have set prices for wheat of various quality.

According to an official statement from the KRG Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, the quality of wheat has been classified into three grades. The grade one quality wheat is priced at 475,000 Iraqi dinars per ton. Grade-two and grade-three wheat are priced at 400,000 and 325,000 dinars, respectively.

The wheat marketing project has been given to two private companies. Wheat is seen as a marketable commodity by the Koshnaw and Qaiwan companies in Erbil and Sulaimani, respectively. As the wheat harvesting season approaches, they store the wheat in their silos to produce flour, bulger, pasta, and other wheat products, beginning in August.

"The wheat quality needs to meet the standards and attributes set by the federal government," the KRG statement read.

There are however many farmers in the Kurdistan Region who complain the price set by the KRG is not the same as the price set by the Iraqi government.

Mohammed Rahman is a farmer in Sulaimani’s Khidran subdistrict.  He has harvested more than 50 tons of wheat this year. He says he will not sell his wheat to the KRG.

"None of our farmers will sell wheat to the KRG because if they sell it on the public market the price will be higher than the (KRG) government’s price. The price of grade-one wheat set by the KRG equals that of grade-three wheat set by Iraq. Iraq has set 610,000 for one ton of grade-one wheat for this year," said Rahman.

Over the last few years, farmers have been selling their crops to the Iraqi government due to the difficulty of marketing their crops in the Kurdistan Region.

The Iraqi government set 560,000 dinars per ton of grade-one wheat last year. However, they failed to pay the farmers at the time the wheat was delivered to the Iraqi storage silos in the Region. At present, thousands of farmers in the Kurdistan Region aren't being paid fully for the crops they harvested in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

In addition to the payment delay, the farmers are also concerned about the amount of wheat the Iraqi government is buying from them. It bought only 350,000 tons last year.

Statistics from the KRG Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources show that farmers harvested 1.2 million tons of wheat in 2020. However, "The product is expected to be between 650,000 to 750,000 tons due to the lack of rain this year,” said Rezhin Siddiq, a senior official at the ministry.