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Food costs plummet in Anbar's liberated cities

By Khalid al-Taie

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An Iraqi grocer sells vegetables in a Fallujah marketplace in a photograph posted online on November 1st, 2016.  [Photo from the Fallujah Mayoral Office Facebook page]

Fallujah native Alaa Ibrahim was forced to sell everything he owned to buy food for his family after the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) overran his city.

Residents of the Anbar city were at the mercy of ISIS, he told Diyaruna, and had to endure a miserable existence as food was both scarce and expensive.

"Prices doubled on goods when they were at all available," Ibrahim said. "I had to sell everything -- our furniture and electrical appliances -- simply to buy a few kilogrammes of flour, rice and sugar."

"Those were unbearable days that forced us to risk our lives and escape so we would not die of starvation," he said.

Ibrahim and his family fled the city, returning after it was liberated.

He is now working as a taxi driver, he said, adding that with a return to pre-ISIS prices, "the money I earn is enough for us".

Federal government help

"We immediately provide food supplies to any city that is liberated," Ministry of Trade spokesman Mohammed al-Hamadani told Diyaruna. "The items on the ration card are now available in all the liberated cities, without exception."

"We have food security, and people can obtain basic staples from the Ministry of Trade at subsidised rates," he added. "There are enough supplies."

"We are trying to streamline the entry of all kinds of goods and resuscitate trade," he added, noting the ministry’s continued efforts to control prices, and the price of food in particular.

A 50-kilogramme sack of flour used to sell for an exorbitant price in ISIS-controlled areas, he said, but is now being made available to people for a token price of 500 dinars ($0.43), he said, as are sugar, oil and rice.

The Ministry of Agriculture has been taking steps to revive the agricultural sector in the liberated areas, ministry spokesman Hameed al-Nayif told Diyaruna.

"This sector has suffered strongly as a result of ISIS, with large agricultural and animal husbandry operations halting production," he said.

"We are now seeking to return to agricultural production until we meet local demand for produce, particularly in the liberated areas," he added.

To this end, al-Nayif said, the ministry has been offering seedlings, fertilisers and pesticides at half price, and has been offering soft loans for the "purchase of machines and water sprays and cultivation of livestock, poultry and fisheries".

The ministry also has been helping farmers by purchasing key crops such as wheat at higher rates, and has extended the timeframe within which government loans must be repaid "to give farmers room to grow their crop".

These measures all have a positive impact on securing food for the liberated population, in addition to regulating prices, al-Nayif said.

'Nothing to worry about'

A state of normalcy is slowly returning to the liberated cities in Anbar, provincial council member Karim al-Karbouli told Diyaruna.

Food is now available, he said, and there is nothing to worry about in terms of food security with the resumption of commercial and agricultural activity, coupled with the state’s support of the population.

"Prices in any of the liberated cities of Anbar are the same as in the capital, Baghdad, and other cities," he said. "There are no exorbitant prices or shortages."

"Goods are flowing smoothly into cities, and we hope that, with the opening of the Trebil border crossing [with Jordan], there will be heightened commercial activity and profits," he added.

Meanwhile, he said, residents of the last remaining cities under ISIS control are "trapped and hungry", he said, explaining that "ISIS has a monopoly on food".

The group feeds its own members first, he said, and sells what is left for ridiculously high prices.

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By God, this is the biggest lie. A bag of flour is for 500 dinars. The agent takes 1,250 dinars from each citizen, and the ration supplies don’t include oil, but include 3 kilos of rice and 9 kilos of flour. They would sometimes give sugar, oil or rice. The Iraqi people have been requesting the supplies card for four months, and have already paid the money for it. The state wants citizens to have high demand on it.

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