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Food Program rice used to feed animals.

Ministry of Trade working to improve rice quality

Following the UN Security Council?s comprehensive sanctions on Iraq, following the country?s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the people of Iraq had a poor economic situation for more than five years.

In 1995, the Security Council adopted Resolution 986, establishing the "oil-for-food" program, providing Iraq with an opportunity to sell oil to trade for humanitarian goods, and various mandated UN activities concerning Iraq.

The program was intended to be a temporary measure to provide for the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people until the fulfillment by Iraq of the relevant Security Council resolutions. The situation in Iraq was slightly better from 1995 until the 2003 invasion when Iraq was liberated from Saddam Hussein?s regime.

Although all the sanctions were lifted in 2003, some Iraqis still lived in poverty, so the Ministry of Trade modified the program.

People in all Iraqi provinces could buy subsidized food, but many said the food was low quality.

Many people complain about the quality of subsidized rice and sell it to farmers for animal feed.

Every morning, people in Erbil hear food buyers shouting, "We buy rice, we buy sugar, we buy flour?"

Muhammad Yaseen, 27, has been buying subsidized food from Erbil?s residents for more than eight years. "I pay 100 to 150 Iraqi dinars for a kilo of rice," he said. Once he has a few hundred kilos, he takes it to Saidawa, a food market, where he sells the rice.

Food Program agents also allow residents to trade the food for detergent or salt or to sell the food back to the agent.

Yaseen says the middle class and wealthy generally sell their food because they can afford higher-quality food from supermarkets.

Haji Tahsin Akram, a Food Program agent, said, "Each person receives 3 kilos of rice from us, but 50 percent of the people do not want it and they sell it back to us."

Attiay Ali cooks rice frequently, and says the rice from the Food Program is not even good enough to make soup because of its low quality. "Whenever I cook it, my family refuses to eat it."

The market price for high-quality rice is 1,000 to 2,000 ID per kilo. Because rice in the Food Program is worth 100 ID, people must sell 10 to 20 kilograms of that rice to get a single kilo of high-quality rice.

"Look at this! Is this really rice? It is only good for animals," sad Bestun Taha, a shopkeeper in the Saidawa market. Taha usually sells 300 kilos of rice weekly to farmers who use it as livestock feed or crush it and use it as fish food.

Taha buys a kilo of rice from the neighborhood buyers for 190 ID and sells it to the farmers for 210 ID.

Hamarasheed Hamasaeed, a livestock farmer, considers the rice as animal feed. He usually mixes the rice with crushed hay and protein. Hamasaeed said, "Rice alone may make the animals sick; that is why we mix it with other items."

To solve the problem of low-quality rice, Iraqi Trade Minister Khayrullah Hassan says the plan is to get rice from Uraguay.

"Each month, we import 700 tons of rice from Thailand, but people are not happy with it because of its low quality. We will now buy rice from Uruguay because the country higher-quality rice," said Hassan.

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Publication:The Kurdish Globe (Erbil, Iraq)
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Nov 3, 2011
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