Iraq has only 190,000 tons of rice left for food program: Trade Ministry

An Iraqi farmer plants amber rice in the Mishkhab region, central Iraq. (AFP/File)
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Updated 01 June 2020

Iraq has only 190,000 tons of rice left for food program: Trade Ministry

  • The country needs around 1-1.25 million tons of rice a year to support the food rationing initiative

BAGHDAD: Iraq has only 190,000 tons of rice available in its coffers for its food rationing program, the Trade Ministry said in a statement late on Saturday.

The country needs around 1-1.25 million tons of rice a year to support the program.

In March, the ministry pleaded for money from the state’s budget to build three months’ supply of strategic wheat and rice stockpiles as Iraq grappled with the spread of the new coronavirus.

The ministry renewed its call for more funds, saying the allocations were crucial, despite “difficulties” with the budget, because many Iraqis are “struggling to provide their daily food due to tough economic conditions amid the coronavirus crisis.”

Iraq, a major Middle East wheat and rice buyer, was politically gridlocked after former Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi was ousted by nationwide anti-corruption protests, hampering efforts to get a state budget approved before the start of the calendar year.

Iraq’s grain board, which falls under the Trade Ministry, holds regular international tenders to import wheat and rice for the rationing program, which also covers cooking oil, flour and sugar.


Analysts urge Canada to focus on boosting the economy

Updated 06 July 2020

Analysts urge Canada to focus on boosting the economy

  • Canada lost one of its coveted triple-A ratings in June when Fitch downgraded it for the first time

TORONTO: Canada should focus on boosting economic growth after getting pummeled by the COVID-19 crisis, analysts say, even as concerns about the sustainability of its debt are growing, with Fitch downgrading the nation’s rating just over a week ago.

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau will deliver a “fiscal snapshot” on Wednesday that will outline the current balance sheet and may give an idea of the money the government is setting aside for the future.

As the economy recovers, some fiscal support measures, which are expected to boost the budget deficit sharply, could be wound down and replaced by incentives meant to get people back to work and measures to boost economic growth, economists said.

“The only solution to these large deficits is growth, so we need a transition to a pro-growth agenda,” said Craig Wright, chief economist at Royal Bank of Canada. The IMF expects Canada’s economy to contract by 8.4 percent this year. Ottawa is already rolling out more than C$150 billion in direct economic aid, including payments to workers impacted by COVID-19.

Further stimulus measures could include a green growth strategy, as well as spending on infrastructure, including smart infrastructure, economists said. Smart infrastructure makes use of digital technology.

“We have to make sure that government spending is calibrated to the economy of the future rather than the economy of the past,” Wright said.

Canada lost one of its coveted triple-A ratings in June when Fitch downgraded it for the first time, citing the billions of dollars in emergency aid Ottawa has spent to help bridge the downturn caused by COVID-19 shutdowns.

Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and DBRS still give Canadian debt the highest rating. At DBRS, Michael Heydt, the lead sovereign analyst on Canada, says his concern is about potential structural damage to the economy if the slowdown lingers too long.

Fiscal policymakers “need to be confident that there is a recovery underway before they start talking about (debt) consolidation,” Heydt said.

Fitch expects Canada’s total government debt will rise to 115.1 percent of GDP in 2020 from 88.3 percent in 2019.

Royce Mendes, a senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets, said the economy still needs more support.

“Turning too quickly toward austerity would be a clear mistake,” he said.