Iraq: UN agency appeals for $5.4 million to rebuild seed industry, avert shortages

8 August 2005 – Iraq's seed industry has collapsed and the country is currently not able to meet farmers' needs for improved crop varieties, seriously threatening its food security, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today as it launched a $5.4 million appeal to rebuild the national seed industry.

“Iraq has currently no system in place that provides certified high-quality seeds of improved varieties,” FAO Project Manager for Iraq Tekeste Tekie said. “As a result, crop productivity remains very low because farmers are using their own, mostly low-quality, seeds.

“If no immediate action is taken, serious seed shortages can be expected in the near future, threatening the country's food security. Crops and vegetable seeds that have been developed by farmers over centuries should be maintained and further improved in order to meet local agricultural and nutritional needs,” he added.

High-quality seed is one of the most critical inputs for sustainable agricultural production. Iraq had a relatively stable and functioning public-sector controlled seed industry before the war in 2003 when agricultural research centres were devastated and most of the equipment and machinery, including seed processing facilities and seed stocks, were looted or damaged.

This has resulted in the loss of almost all generations of seeds of all crops, FAO said. Moreover, much seed expertise was lost during the conflict. As a result, Iraq can only cover four per cent of the national demand for quality seeds from its own resources. Most seeds come from farmers' own seed reserves, which are of low quality.

Building on FAO's pre-war experience in northern Iraq, the new project seeks to rebuild a modern seed industry and to increase the quantity and quality of seeds available to farmers.

“All farmers in Iraq, including vulnerable and marginalized groups, will profit from the seed rehabilitation project. Through the production of high-quality seed varieties, Iraq will be able to increase yields and reduce food imports,” Mr. Tekie said.

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