An international project aims to improve economic opportunities in Iraq by developing the infrastructure for beef and lamb production and distribution.  

The partnership between the Inma Agribusiness Program, U.S. Agency for International Development, and U.S. and Iraqi governmental agencies, universities and agribusiness groups and individuals will bring new private-sector economic opportunities to Iraq, they said.

“Through a combination of technical and financial support, the partnership will work toward making Iraq a top beef and lamb producer within the Arab world,” said Dr. Ma’ad Mohammed, Inma project coordinator for the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture of the Texas A&M System, a key program participant.

The Inma Agribusiness Program is implemented by a consortium led by The Louis Berger Group Inc. under a USAID contract. Working with the Iraqi government, project participants are helping develop and diversify Iraq’s agribusiness sector, generating new employment opportunities and helping Iraq create a more viable and profitable agribusiness industry for the future.

Ongoing agricultural and agribusiness initiatives of the Inma program include improving Iraq’s crop diversity and livestock production, providing better agricultural information systems, developing and implementing soil reclamation and water resource programs, and increasing domestic and foreign agribusiness partnerships.

In Iraq's livestock sector, the program is addressing production and marketing of quality meat cuts, improving the meat-processing equipment and operational-systems infrastructure, and establishing a more modern and widely acceptable meat-handling system. It also is focused on helping Iraqis establish improved product grades and standards, including a live-animal grading system, and enhancing their red-meat packaging and marketing.

According to USAID, the new Inma feedlot initiative will help establish the forage (alfalfa, barley and hay) industry in Iraq, develop a feeder-calf and lamb industry for consistent supply, create a demand for improved refrigerator transport and encourage the establishment of a standardized red-meat grading system.

The project also is expected to improve food security by providing higher quality, healthier animals and a “more desirable form of protein” to consumers. Feedlot project activities will be part of the overall Inma agribusiness program, which was initiated in July 2007 and is contracted through May 2010, and contains provisions for two additional one-year extensions.

The Inma program hopes to establish about 30 feedlots throughout Iraq. Project plans indicate the feedlot initiative could create as many as 500 jobs directly within established feedlots and many more in affiliated businesses.

“The demand for high-quality red meat in Iraq outweighs supply, and red-meat consumption in that country is growing at about 10 to 15 percent a year, with more money spent on this than other food commodities such as vegetables, fruits and fish,” said Ross Wherry, Inma project chief of party for The Berger Group. “Showing Iraqi farmers how to keep and feed livestock in feedlot areas will allow them to produce higher quality meat at a faster rate that traditional grazing and will go a long way toward helping them fill the increasing demand for red meat.”
More importantly, he added, feedlot farming methods can increase revenue for farmers and provide new job opportunities within the Iraqi livestock industry.

“Providing more revenue to the agribusiness sector will also improve Iraq’s economic situation and, by extension, help bolster its overall social stability,” he said.Feedlot-related activities will begin with the development of 10 feedlots in different areas of Iraq. Locally produced alfalfa, barley, maize, dates and supplemental minerals will be used to fatten feedlot livestock.

“The Inma feedlot project also will open the door for new business ventures and the use of new technology,” Mohammed added. “It will also help create an opportunity for meat export to other countries.”

To announce the new partnership, the Inma Livestock and Forage “value chain” team coordinated a Livestock Feedlots: More Meat, More Income symposium on June 25 at the Al Rasheed Hotel in Baghdad. The event was attended by more than 140 people, including partnering agency representatives and dozens of Iraqi livestock producers, feedlot operators, feed and forage producers, and meat processors and retailers.

During the symposium, the team presented estimates that by 2012 it would be possible for 30 feedlot operations in Iraq to increase national red-meat production by 2 percent, increasing revenues by about $30 million and generating about $15 million in gross income for livestock producers.
“The event was attended by Dr. Akram Al Hakeem, Iraq’s agriculture minister, which added to the merit and significance of the conference,” said Dr. Tony Laos, the Borlaug Institute’s in-country team leader for the Inma project. “Dr. Al Hakeem placed an emphasis on Inma’s commitment to work with and share its findings with interested agriculture ministry and agricultural university extension personnel and the rural livestock sector.”

“Senior ministry officials emphasized the need for support from private industry,” Laos added. “They also noted the need for individuals and businesses to obtain and employ new knowledge and technological advances to create a more modern red-meat industry that conforms with international quality standards."

Other discussion addressed the use of local livestock in feedlot operations, maintaining an adequate sustainable food supply for feedlot animals, government subsidies, credit access and Iraqi banking laws.

“Initial efforts will set the tone for a new era in the Iraqi livestock industry which will then develop and create new jobs and new possibilities through the entire livestock value chain in both urban and rural areas,” Laos said.

Laos added that another important aspect of the partnership has been its ability to bring together people of different political and religious affiliations. “During the event in Baghdad, Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, Kurds and other factions came together to share experiences and concerns related to agribusiness development,” he said. “The spirit of cooperation has been inspiring.”

For more information on the Inma project, click here