Demand swelling ahead of Ramadan

Import duties slashed in response to rise in meat prices

BAGHDAD – In Baghdad, the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture has approved new procedures for the import of meat and livestock, along with a decrease in import tariffs, signaling a potential drop in red meat prices. Similarly, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Ministry of Agriculture has initiated measures to allow for livestock imports, aiming to stabilize the market and mitigate the escalating prices of red meat.

Hewa Ali, a spokesperson for the KRG’s Ministry of Agriculture, indicated that the approval for importing livestock and meat is an effort to achieve market balance and relieve the inflation of red meat prices. The licensing of several large animal husbandry farms is expected to prevent a spike in red meat prices in the near future.

Conversely, Mohammed Al-Houzai, spokesperson for the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture, noted that while the importation channels are now open, there are still restrictions in place to safeguard health. As such, not all countries have the green light to export sheep and cattle to Iraq. Specifically, countries not affiliated with the World Health Organization and those without a mutual health agreement with Iraq are barred from exporting meat and livestock. Moreover, before any imports are approved, a veterinary team is dispatched to the exporting country for inspections.

Al-Houzai elaborated that these measures might take time to influence price reductions, especially with prices fluctuating significantly ahead of Ramadan, complicating efforts to quickly lower prices.

The Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture has halved the import tariffs on red meat for a year, in anticipation of 19 Brazilian cattle shipments. This decision comes amidst controversy over a shipment in Cape Town, where the Al Kuwait carried 19,000 cattle under dire conditions, sparking global outrage from animal rights and environmental groups. The incident, exposing the cattle to overcrowding, dehydration, disease, and hunger, raises significant concerns about the ethics of live animal export.

Over the past month, the cost of red meat has surged noticeably in both Iraqi markets and the Kurdistan Region, with prices in the latter reaching 25,000 Iraqi dinars ($16) per kilogram. This increase has sparked calls from importers and exporters for an expansion in the supply of red meat among member countries.

In Sulaymaniyah, the cost for a kilogram of red meat has risen by two thousand dinars ($1.25).

Both Iraq and the KRG have, at times, employed protectionist trade policies under the guise of supporting local agriculture and farming. However, the unintended consequences of these measures, such as spikes in demand leading to sudden price rises, means there are risks of political headaches for the authorities.