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Iraq’s Basra loses half of its arable land

By Abed Battat

Azzaman, September 1, 2009

The southern Iraqi city of Basra, known for its extensive arable land dotted with tens of thousands of farms, risks turning into desert, a senior agricultural official said.

Amer Salman, who heads the Agriculture Department in the Province of Basra of which the city of Basra is the provincial capital, urged the central government to extend a helping hand "before it is too late."

"I urge the federal government to allocate an emergency grant in order to save the (agricultural) sector," he said.

Otherwise, he added, "There will be no cultivation and agriculture in Basra for the winter season."

Salman blamed insufficient water flow from the country’s sole rivers the Tigris and Euphrates as well as the agricultural policies pursued since the 2003-U.S. invasion.

He said the decision to allow the import of all agricultural products has "flooded Iraqi markets" with cheap vegetables, fruits and cereals.

"The agricultural sector (in Basra) is deteriorating and production plunging due to random imports, insufficient allocations and lack of water reaching the province," he said.

Basra was once part of what historians called 'the Paradise of Aden’ as the city was surrounded by a sea of date palm trees orchards and farms.

There used to be up to 30 million date palm trees in Basra.

But Salman said the number of orchards has fallen to 2500 from 5000 in the past few years.







:: Article nr. 57534 sent on 01-sep-2009 18:03 ECT

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