Agricultural development efforts are moving forward in Iraq despite security concerns, said the US senior advisor to Iraq for agriculture. Speaking July 9 at a press briefing in Washington, Dan Amstutz said US agriculture officials are working closely with representatives of the Australian government and have met with representatives of the World Bank and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to plan the reconstruction of the country's agricultural sector.
Amstutz said officials have begun also to meet with Iraqi farmers, cautioning that patience is needed as the country's agricultural sector shifts from a heavily subsidized system to one that is market-based.
He characterized the security situation in Iraq as "serious" and said the contacts with farmers have been constrained in recent weeks because of a limited number of military personnel available to accompany them on convoys for travel outside of Baghdad.
Also at the briefing, Trevor Flugge, Australia's senior ministry advisor for agriculture, said coalition officials have been working to assure Iraqis in the agriculture ministry that the coalition is in the country "to help you as much as we possibly can to manage through the processes of change." He said he stressed to the Iraqis that the coalition's commitment is long-term.
Amstutz and Flugge are scheduled to return to Iraq the week of July 14. Flugge said that Iraq has "huge potential for economic growth" and said the United States and Australia need to invest in the country so it can grow to be a strong trading partner.
Flugge praised the coordination between coalition civilian and military personnel in rebuilding the agriculture ministry building. Also speaking at the briefing, J.B. Penn, U.S. under secretary for farm and foreign agricultural services, said Iraq's wheat and rice needs have been met "for the next several months." — (menareport.com)
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