Land used in one district down 21.4%
Potato cultivation dives as Duhok farmers call for import bans
DUHOK — Despite having 8,150 acres of land prepared for potato cultivation, Duhok Governorate potato farming has decreased compared to previous years
The planting season in the districts of Bardarash and Sheikhan in Duhok has begun, yet farmers are hesitant to grow potatoes as abundantly.
Mohammed Goran, a local farmer, told 964media, “Due to last year’s low market prices, we will cultivate fewer potatoes this year, fearing a repeat of the situation where produce remained unsold.”
Tahsin Goran, the director of agriculture in Bardarash, shared this perspective, noting that farmers are planting potatoes on a smaller scale. He disclosed that potatoes from the 2022 and 2023 harvests are still unsold in warehouses.
The competition from imported Iranian potatoes has also impacted local production, with some farmers opting not to harvest their autumn crop.
According to data from the Bardarash agriculture department, farmers grew potatoes on 6,920 acres last year, but this year, the cultivation area has been reduced to 5,440 acres, marking a decrease of approximately 21.4%.
Ahmed Jamil, the director general of Agriculture in Duhok, stated, “This year, 8,150 acres of land in the Duhok governorate will be used for potato cultivation, and we anticipate a production of 397,000 tons.”
However, this forecast contrasts with the 2023 production figures, where 585,000 tons of potatoes were produced in Bardarash and Sheikhan, pointing to a notable drop in cultivation and possibly in overall production.
Additionally, farmers in Mosul have opted to store their potato crop, waiting for higher prices. Despite a successful harvest of fresh Mosul potatoes being ready to market, local farmers are opting to hold on.
The influx of imported crops has caused a significant price drop, with the cost of potatoes falling to 150 Iraqi dinars per kilogram, a price that does not cover production costs in most cases. Mosul farmers are hoping for prices to break the 300 dinar mark before selling, to recoup costs
The region, known for its extensive agricultural lands, is pivotal for growing crops like potatoes. Profitability is hindered not just by imports but by factors such as productivity, efficiencies in agricultural methods, government subsidies, and access to necessary supplies. Local farmers encounter difficulties in securing chemical fertilizers, seeds, and fuel from the Ministry of Agriculture.
Khatab Ali, a farmer who spoke to 964media, discussed returning to agriculture after a break since 2017. “We start planting potatoes in September, with the harvest in January and at the latest by early February,” Ali said.
However, the high cost of seeds, exceeding one million dinars per ton, along with the expenses on agricultural machinery and labor, significantly increases the cost of potato farming.
Ali champions a protectionist policy towards imports as a remedy to local production woes, warning: “Currently, the wholesale price of potatoes is at 150 dinars per kilogram, a rate at which farmers cannot afford to sell due to potential losses.”