November 1, 2020 | finance & economy

Sulaimani potato farmers happy with higher prices, new markets

SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – Sulaimani’s potato farmers are happy that prices have risen since the government enforced a ban on imports. They have also seen a spike in production of spuds this year and are opening up to new markets.

Salah Hama Azeez is a farmer in Sulaimani who goes to the city’s fruits and vegetables wholesale market to market his products. “When there is a ban on imported potatoes, the price of the local production goes up. This is profitable for the farmers, but it will be a burden on the public. Iranian potatoes are very cheap, but they will harm local farmers,” he told Rudaw.

The Kurdistan Regional Government’s agriculture ministry in August banned imports of a number of products, including potatoes. When imported potatoes continued to show up in the markets, farmers took to the streets in protest in late September.

Begard Talabani, agriculture minister, told Rudaw at the time that she could not control imports without support from security forces and the administrators of border crossings. “I can only control markets and confiscate the imported products,” she said.

Two months later, a kilo of potato is selling for about 500 dinars ($0.42), up from 200 dinars in September, a sign that the government has intensified efforts to prevent potatoes from Iran and Turkey entering the market.

Farmer Salim Abdulkarim believes that Talabani “responded to our call” for a ban on imports. “We really benefited from it. The price of a kilo of potatoes was about 200 dinar, but now it has more than doubled.”

Potato production has also grown. According to the agriculture ministry, farmers grew 12,000 tonnes of potatoes in 2010. In the first 10 months of this year, farmers have brought in 260,000 tonnes of potatoes. The Kurdistan Region consumes 90,000 tonnes of potatoes annually and the rest is sold to the rest of Iraq.

Shalaw Jamal, head of Sulaimani’s agriculture directorate, gives credit for the increased production to the government. “We have sometimes imposed high taxes on potatoes and sometimes even banned it. The Interior Ministry and all other relevant authorities have been instructed to prevent importation of potatoes,” he said.

The government is also working to find new markets for potatoes. Talabani met with a number of producers of chips in Halabja province on October 26 to encourage them to buy local
Hakar Bilal is a farmer in Gokhlan village in Sulaimani’s Penjwen area. He has been planting potatoes for six years, and this year planted a variety used to make chips.

“We work with an international company, which works per international standards. It used to fully rely on imported potatoes but we have been able to provide them with a good amount of potatoes this year,” he told Rudaw. Bilal employs some 300 people on his farm and produced 1,500 tonnes of potatoes this year.


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