Questions and answers: Begard Talabani, Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources of the KRG

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KRG Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources Begard Talabani in her office in Erbil in October 2021 (LIZZIE PORTER / Iraq Oil Report)

ERBIL – The Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) has hundreds of thousands of hectares of agricultural land, both pasture and arable land. It contains water from melting mountain snows, rain, springs and rivers flowing from Iran and Turkey.

But Kurdistan’s agricultural sector also faces serious challenges: climate change, drought, financial crises and strained relations with neighboring countries.

As the head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Begard Talabani is responsible for managing these problems and helping to solve them.

The most pressing problem is drought. Low rainfall and reduced flows in waterways from Iran are having dramatic negative impacts, Talabani told Iraq Oil Report in an interview with his office in Erbil last week.

To build the dams and water storage basins it deems necessary to minimize shortages in the years to come, the KRG plans to enter into public-private partnerships with foreign companies. Officials are currently reviewing the proposals and contracts are expected to be awarded imminently, Talabani said.

Another problem is competition for products. KRI farmers are struggling to match the prices of goods imported in bulk from Iran and Turkey. In an attempt to make local products such as fruits and vegetables more competitive, the KRG plans to introduce import tariffs on foreign products.

The agricultural sector is also affected by long-standing tensions between Erbil and Baghdad. According to Talabani, wheat farmers in the Kurdistan region must pay their crops to the Iraqi federal government, while Erbil’s representatives were not involved in the recent discussions on the distribution of water resources between the Iraqi federal government and Turkey.

The KRG’s chronic budget deficits also complicate the work of its ministry.

“In previous cabinets, a special budget was allocated to the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, but now that budget has been cut,” Talabani said. “The excuse of the Council of Ministers is the financial crisis and the lack of an adequate budget at its disposal.

In addition to his post as minister in the government, Talabani sits on the board of directors of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the two main ruling parties of the KRG. The full transcript of his interview is available below for Iraq Oil Report subscribers.

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Iraq Oil Report attribution policy

All sources cited or referenced have spoken to Iraq Oil Report directly and exclusively, unless otherwise specified. Iraq Oil Report generally grants anonymity to sources who cannot speak without risking their personal safety or job security. We only publish information from anonymous sources that we independently corroborate and that is important to the essential story. We do not provide anonymity to sources whose purpose is to promote personal or political agendas.

Iraq Oil returns commitment to independence

Iraq Oil Report strives to provide carefully verified reports and unbiased analysis that enables readers to understand dynamic events in Iraq. To achieve this goal, we always seek to gather first-hand information from the field, verify the facts from multiple angles, and solicit contributions from all stakeholders involved in a given story.

view our independence as an integral part of our competitive advantage. While many media entities in Iraq are owned or heavily influenced by political parties, Iraq Oil Report is wholly owned by several of its employees. In an often polarized and politicized landscape, we are able to gather and corroborate information from an unusually wide range of sources because we can speak with each of them in good faith.

Funding this business, Iraq Oil Report depends on advertising and subscription revenues. Some of our advertisers and subscribers – including businesses, governments and NGOs – are also the subject of our reports. In accordance with journalistic best practices, Iraq Oil Report maintains a strict firewall that removes commercial considerations from editorial decision-making. When choosing which stories to report and how to write them, our readers always come first.


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