Iraq - Livestock And Products Annual Report

Persistent animal feed shortages are taxing livestock producers, writes John Schnittker in the latest GAIN Report from USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.
calendar icon 16 December 2009
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Report Highlights

The lack of availability and high price of animal feed continues to hinder Iraq's agricultural economy and results in reduced agricultural employment and higher meat prices. Significant demand exists for corn, soybeans and other feeds but it is stifled by governance and transportation barriers. However, bulk private sector imports of feed are poised to grow rapidly if import regulations are liberalised.

This report provides estimates of Iraqi feed grain supply, details the current and preferred pathways for feed imports, and gives an 'on the ground' perspective of Iraqi import practices.

Feed Situation

Shortage of feed in Iraq

In Iraq, growing demand for sheep, beef, and poultry is not being met and meat prices are high compared to surrounding countries. Although data on animal numbers are sketchy, over the past three decades cattle and sheep populations have declined while the human population has nearly doubled to almost 30 million. Poultry production and imports have recently grown rapidly but per capita consumption is still only a fraction of levels in surrounding countries.

Domestic feed wheat and barley production has been affected by drought and the resulting contraction in the feed supply has primarily affected the sheep sector. It is likely that sheep and goat numbers have declined significantly in recent years. If this is the case, it calls into question how the Iraqi local feed market will respond if grain production returns to “average” production in 2010. Feed wheat is already extensively used by the poultry sector, and if there is a large wheat and barley crop next summer imports of feed grains could face competition. Protein meal would be the exception because of no established domestic production capacity.

Animal numbers in Iraq

Iraq livestock estimates (2006–2009; million head; includes KRG)
Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture
USDA Baghdad
USDA Baghdad
% Change
Sheep 18.615 17.580 15.412 13.025 -30
Goats 1.897 1.860 1.710 1.614 -15
Cattle 1.437 1.365 1.228 1.166 -25
Buffalo 0.146 0.146 0.146 0.146 -0-
Camels 0.009 0.009 0.009 0.009 -0-

Official Iraq Ministry of Agriculture animal census estimates have not been released in recent years. It is generally believed that the 2006 census estimates are inflated. USDA believes it is conservative to reduce livestock numbers by 15 to 30 per cent in reaction to the successive droughts and their impact on feed wheat and barley production. There is little evidence that feed grain imports increased substantially in response to this situation. A 2008 Government of Iraq Ministry of Agriculture Drought Relief Program, which was to include a large purchase of feed barley for livestock use was never fully implemented.

High internal feed prices and high red meat prices lead us to conclude that producers have faced a situation where they must sell animals to buy feed for the remaining stock. Regrettably, high wholesale beef and mutton prices have not resulted in increased revenues at the producer level. Livestock prices fell during the late summer of 2008 as producers marketed animals they could no longer afford to feed. Producer prices have stabilized since then, while wholesale red meat prices have risen dramatically. Feed products available to the poultry sector have likely seen a small increase this year as the result of lower international commodity prices and increased familiarity and availability of pelleted feed.

Iraqi poultry meat production, imports and per-capita consumption
  1987 1997 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Production (1,000 metric tons) n/a 33 50 95 95 110 125
Total imports (1,000 metric tons) n/a 5 119 176 211 265 290
Per capita consumption (kg) n/a n/a 6.3 9.9 10.8 13 14

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

December 2009

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