Food prices rise in Iraq in wake of Russia-Ukraine war

Food prices rise in Iraq in wake of Russia-Ukraine war
3 min read
08 March, 2022
Prices of basic food items went up in Iraq and the Kurdistan region over concerns that the Russia-Ukraine war could disrupt trading routes.
Kurdish officials dismissed reports about Turkey and Iran restricting food exports to Iraq. [Dana Taib Menmy/TNA]

SULAIMANIYAH (Iraqi Kurdistan Region) - Prices of staples have skyrocketed across Iraq, as traders ascribe the increase to the Russia-Ukraine war. Iraqi officials say that traders are “exploiting” the situation though, and vow to take measures against price manipulation.

Prices of cooking oil, flour, rice and sugar have climbed in the marketplaces in the past few days across Iraq, with cooking oil increasing by nearly 50 per cent, flour by 25 per cent, and rice by nearly 10 per cent.

“Prices of cooking oil are continuously rising because the Russia-Ukraine war prompted traders to decrease imports of cooking oil and wheat from both countries, which are two of the world's major suppliers,” a food trader in Sulaimaniyah city’s main bazaar told The New Arab.

“Another reason is that Turkey and Iran have restricted food exports to Iraq, as both countries fear the war could affect their own stocks for local consumption.”

Iraq is a major importer of Russian wheat, especially as the country suffers from drought and water flow restrictions from Turkey and Iran.

Another food trader in Sulaimaniyah highlighted the same issues, while indicating that the demand for food was on the rise, as buyers feared the prices might rise further. “Thus, as you see, people are rushing to the markets and purchasing large amounts of foodstuffs,” the trader said.

“The holy [Islamic] month of Ramadan is approaching in early April, and some greedy traders and shopkeepers are exploiting this to increase prices,” he added. Practicing Muslims fast during Ramadan but they tend to eat more when breaking fast after dusk every day.

Nawzad Kamil, director general of trade at the Iraqi Kurdistan's ministry of trade and industry, told The New Arab in a phone call that “the Russia-Ukraine war has not only affected Iraq, but also the Middle East and Europe. But we assure our citizens that our stores are full of food items. We are also distributing foodstuffs via the food rationing [system] on a daily basis.”

Kamil dismissed reports about Turkey and Iran restricting food exports to Iraq. He said that traders were not allowed to raise the prices and would be punished if they did not abide by regulations, “as most of the traders have imported foodstuffs prior to the Russia-Ukraine war.”

Authorities in Iraq and the Kurdistan region said the country was not facing food shortages, and that they would take measures against those found responsible for manipulating prices.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, the first deputy speaker of Iraq’s parliament, Hakim Al-Zamili, vowed to “pursue price manipulators”, official Iraqi News Agency (INA) reported.

The Iraqi government discussed the issue on Monday and, on Sunday, the Iraqi ministry of trade said it would distribute foodstuffs monthly and provide Iraqis with food rations twice during Ramadan.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) authorities have imposed strict measures, including closing down some stores in the regional capital Erbil, in order to curb the rise in food prices.