BAGHDAD -- Food security in Iraq is no less serious a challenge than national security, but is achievable if the country's resources are put to good use within an overall development plan, a senior Iraqi diplomat has told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq.
Hasan al-Janabi, who is Iraqi ambassador to the UN's Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program, said on August 25 that although Australia had less water resources than Iraq, it produced some 25 million tons of grain per year, whereas Iraqi officials were euphoric that this year would see a bumper crop with about 1.25 million tons.
Janabi said Iraq could achieve food self-sufficiency, provided this target is part of an overall long-term development plan with the emphasis on rural advancement.
He said Iraq had some 5.5 million hectares of arable land, which is enough to feed 77 million. But the actual area currently under cultivation is just 3.25 million hectares -- in theory, enough to feed 45 million people, if the area is farmed properly.
Iraq's current population is approximately 29 million.
Iraq imports about 70 percent of its food requirements, while some 25 percent of Iraqis live below the poverty line, according to data provided by the Iraqi Central Organization for Statistics and Information Technology.
Janabi said this situation can be drastically turned around by a national effort involving all state institutions, the private sector, and local government, rather than the Ministry of Agriculture alone.
He argued that terror groups could be eliminated as the Iraqi security forces build their capacity, and the impact of their murderous actions will wither away over time.
By contrast, the consequences of undernourishment and food insecurity are long-lasting, and more serious in the long term.