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Only 190,000 tonnes of rice left for Iraq's food programme: Trade ministry

The ministry has called for funds to boost supplies as Iraqis grapple with the economic fallout of the coronavirus
Iraq needs around 1-1.25 million tonnes of rice a year to support its food rationing programme (AFP)

Iraq has only 190,000 tonnes of rice in its reserves for its food rationing programme, way below what it needs, the trade ministry has said.

The country needs around 1-1.25 million tonnes of rice a year to support the programme, which also covers cooking oil, flour and sugar. 

The trade ministry called for state funds in March to build a strategic supply of wheat and rice stockpiles for three months, as the country responds to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In a statement late on Saturday, the ministry renewed its pleas for more money, saying that, despite budget issues, the allotments were critical to the many Iraqis who are "struggling to provide their daily food due to tough economic conditions amid the coronavirus crisis".

The resignation of former prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, driven from office in November by nationwide anti-corruption protests, has hindered efforts to get a state budget approved before the start of the calendar year.

Iraq is a major regional wheat and rice importer. The grain board, which falls under the trade ministry, holds regular international tenders to cover its needs for the rationing programme.