BAGHDAD, IRAQ — Recent rains have help Iraq’s grain production increase sharply in 2019, following a dry 2018, according to a May 15 Global Agricultural Information Network report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The USDA estimated Iraq’s wheat production for 2019-20 to be 4.97 million tonnes, about 1 million tonnes, or 32%, above its 2018-19 production estimates.

“Rainfall began in October 2018 and has surpassed early expectations,” the USDA said. “Based on high rainfall and filling reservoirs (USDA) expects farmers to plant more than the area allocated in the Iraqi government’s annual agricultural plans. Further pushing up production, the Iraqi Minister of Agriculture is distributing improved, certified seeds and fertilizers at a discount to most producers.”

The USDA estimated that wheat consumption in Iraq in 2019-20 will reach 6.9 million tonnes, an increase of 3.5% from the previous year.

“Population growth is driving increases in consumption,” the USDA said. “The population of Iraq is 40.2 million and the growth rate is 2.6%. In addition to the high birth rate, many Iraqis who left during the war are now returning, adding further upward pressure on consumption.”