The Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture has reached agreement with the Ministry of Electricity to exempt Iraqi farmers and their farms from the regular electrical power outage schedule, officials said Thursday (December 8th).
Farms will now be supplied with 12 hours of continuous electricity a day beginning from 8 pm to 8 am during agricultural seasons to operate their irrigation pumps. For the remaining 12 hours, the farms will be without power.
"The objective behind this step is to secure farmers with the electric power they need to operate their water pumps and irrigate their plants in order to increase the country's production of agricultural products, particularly the strategic crops of wheat and barley," said Mahdi Dhamad al-Qaisi, senior deputy minister of agriculture.
Al-Qaisi told Mawtani that the Ministry of Agriculture is always working to provide the means to help develop the agricultural sector in Iraq. He said the ministry sold 1,550 advanced irrigation systems to farmers at a discount of 50 percent "to encourage them to employ modern irrigation systems and abandon the traditional ways that cause waste in water and increase the salinity of agricultural land".
He also said the ministry continually supports the water users associations, which seek to increase awareness among farmers and guide them toward using correct irrigation techniques, which help conserve water, decrease waste, and meet the specific requirements for each crop. The ministry also supports the continuation of the loans programs for farmers willing to drill wells.
Ministry of Electricity spokesperson Mussab al-Mudarres told Mawtani, "Our ministry's agreement to exempt farmers from the electric power outage schedule was part of the ministry's support of the national effort to double the local agricultural production to achieve a state of self sufficiency in all crops."
Al-Mudarres said the ministry, through the joint committee set up with the Ministry of Agriculture, is working on setting up a comprehensive database to determine the appropriate power schedule according to agricultural acreage and type of crop being grown.
"We hope to increase the supply period to over 18 hours when our production of electricity improves," he said.
Shaalan al-Kareem, member of the Iraqi parliament's agriculture committee, praised the efforts aimed at meeting farmers' needs for energy.
"Exempting farmers from the electricity cut off schedules is definitely an important step which will have positive returns that serve the state of agriculture in the country," he said.
"What we also wish to happen in this context is to supply farmers with ample quantities of fuel at subsidized prices to enable them to operate their irrigation pumps, fed by power coming from the power generators they have, because many agricultural farms are located in remote areas and are not served by the national electricity network."
A number of Iraqi farmers welcomed the new government plan.
"The problem of power shortages and frequent shut downs affect our work greatly. Without electric power, we cannot draw water from the wells or the drainage to irrigate our crops," said Khider Hameed, 43, a farmer in Baghdad.
"But with the availability of electricity, we shall overcome this problem and we will not have to use our electricity generators for long periods, which would result in additional costs for fuel and maintenance work."