WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Poor weather conditions, lower wheat procurement prices and conflict weighed on lower wheat production forecasts in Iraq for the 2017-18 marketing year, according to a Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report issued Oct. 10 by the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In its GAIN report, the USDA indicated that wheat production in Iraq for the 2017-18 marketing year is forecast at 4.025 million tonnes, down 5% from a revised 2016-17 production estimate of 4.225 million tonnes.

“A lower wheat procurement price and the potential that wheat sales to the Ministry of Trade to be limited by a quota have had a negative effect on planted wheat area, and appears to be responsible for a small shift away from wheat into barley,” the USDA said.

The USDA also noted that weather conditions were “less than ideal” for fall planting across the rain dependent areas of northern Iraq and Kurdistan. That said, the wheat and barley crops that made it through the winter benefited from late season rains, alleviating concerns over major crop losses, the USDA said.

Even as wheat production is forecast to fall, wheat consumption in Iraq is forecast to rise. The USDA projected wheat consumption at 6.825 million tonnes, up from 6.5 million tonnes in 2016-17. The increase primarily reflects expected gains in feed wheat use, with food use forecast to increase only slightly, according to the USDA report.

Wheat imports, meanwhile, are expected to show “significant growth” in the 2017-18 marketing year, increasing 24% year-over-year to 2.85 million tonnes from 2.3 million tonnes.

“Most of the increase will be due to increased wheat purchases to supply Iraq’s Public Distribution System,” the USDA noted. “Flour imports (grain equivalent) will remain strong showing some growth from current levels. The potential for increased flour imports

estimate is based upon reported quality problems with the 2017 wheat harvest. However, flour, not grain will continue to comprise most of Iraq’s wheat import total.

“During MY 2016/17 flour comprised 99% of imports. Wheat (grain) imports during MY 2017/18 are forecast to comprise 18% of total wheat imports. Expected purchases for the PDS will account for most of the increase in wheat imports. If quality concerns are realized, both grain and flour imports could rise above the forecast level.”