March 20, 2010 | Huma Gupta
I struggle with the privileged status enjoyed by US companies to penetrate the Iraqi markets post-Occupation. Iraqi agriculture has suffered extensively due to the US-backed sanctions in the 1990s, followed by bombing, instability, and continued lack of access to key agricultural products. This has led to the extremely high prices of Iraqi agricultural products, and the subsequent dependence on cheaper agricultural imports, for example, from neighboring Syria. It is also worthy to note that the 1990s era sanctions have STILL NOT BEEN LIFTED! There is talk to lift these soon, however.
Since Iraqi farmers are in a vulnerable state and desperately need access to agricultural products to improve infrastructure and crop yield at lower prices, US companies will play a foundational role in shaping Iraqi agricultural practices. And who will these companies be? Will Monsanto be among them? Will we see GMO-seed + Monsanto pesticides being exported to Iraq and attack Iraq’s natural biodiversity?
Here is an invite sent from Darrell A. Upshaw, Public/Private Sector Advisor for USDA/FAS/OCBD in the Trade and Science Capacity Building Div
We cordially invite you to attend the USDA Agribusiness Trade Mission to the Republic of Iraq.
The USDA will sponsor an Agribusiness Trade Mission to the Republic of Iraq, tentatively scheduled for June 6-10, in Baghdad, Iraq. We have recommended FFAS Under Secretary James Miller lead the Mission to Iraq.
We are looking to attract U.S. businesses who are interested in opening or extending market access opportunities in Iraq. The formal announcement will be available in the upcoming weeks, as we are awaiting confirmation on the USDA principal who will lead the Mission. In the meantime, if you or colleagues are interested in this opportunity, please don’t hesitate to contact me as soon as possible and I will provide additional information.
Mission Goal: The goal of the Iraq Agribusiness Trade Mission is to provide U.S. participants with first-hand market information, access to government decision makers, and one-on-one meetings with business contacts, including potential agents, distributors and partners, so they can position themselves to enter or expand their presence in the Iraqi market.
The agricultural sector is the largest employer of Iraq’s workforce, but it is filled with low-skilled workers with little participation in the country’s economic growth. Extensive subsidies have distorted markets and prevented private sector investment from taking root.
It is unlikely that Iraq will be able to meet the needs of its growing and diverse population without further increases in imports of agricultural products and development of sustainable agricultural programs. Although there is significant potential to boost productivity and output of a broad array of farm products, recent trends in imports of commodities such as edible oils, pulses, cotton and several high-value products indicate the potential impacts of the growing urban middle class, as well as the large numbers of low-income consumers that make up the bulk of Iraq’s population.
To change perceptions and improve trade and investment opportunities with Iraq, the U.S. Government (USG) needs to support opportunities where U.S. businesses can be introduced to Iraqi businesses in a structured, focused manner. The National Strategy for Victory in Iraq (NSVI), the cornerstone of the USG trade and investment policy toward Iraq, seeks to increase Iraq-U.S. trade and revitalize Iraq’s agricultural sector.
Objective: To promote joint ventures, support bilateral trade and boost investment in Iraq’s developing agricultural sector. The mission will improve U.S. agribusiness ties with Iraq through establishing direct trade relations between U.S. producers and Iraqi buyers, and secondarily, Iraqi producers and U.S. investors. The product focus of this mission to Iraq is production, food processing, ready-to-eat retail products, fruits, vegetables, animal products, equipment, irrigation, investment and storage.
Iraq’s major agricultural production includes wheat, barley, rice, vegetables, dates, cotton, livestock and poultry. Agriculture accounts for 9.6 percent of Iraq’s gross domestic product, but almost one-quarter of the country’s labor force (i.e., 21.6 percent) is engaged in agriculture. The Trade Mission will improve U.S. agribusiness ties with Iraq by increasing direct trade relations among U.S. producers, investors, processors, buyers, and secondarily with Iraqi producers.
Mission Scenario: The Iraq Agribusiness Trade Mission will be held in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraqi entrepreneurs will travel to Baghdad, Iraq to meet with selected U.S. agribusiness participants. Meetings with Iraqi, U.S. Government and Industry Officials; Presentations by Public/Private Sector Experts; One-on-one business meetings and Site Visits will be scheduled during the Mission.
Additional business meetings can be arranged by USDA for your convenience.
USDA will cover all on-ground expenses (transportation, translation, conference venue, reception costs, etc.) during the Mission. Participants are responsible for their travel to Baghdad and lodging costs.
Sunday, June 5, 2010 Participants Arrive; Reside at the Al-Rasheed Hotel
Monday, June 6, 2010 Meetings with Government and Industry Officials
Presentations by Public and Private Sector Officials
Reception Sponsored by U.S. Ambassador
Tuesday, June 7, 2010 One-on-One Business Meetings
Wednesday, June 8, 2010 One-on-One Business Meetings and Possible Site Visits
Reception Sponsored by USDA
Thursday, June 9, 2010 One-on-One Business Meetings/Site Visits OR Departure
Friday, June 10, 2010 Departure
Mission concludes Friday, June 10, 2010. Participants may return to United States or remain in Iraq for additional appointments arranged by USDA Staff.
Criteria for Participants’ Selection:
- Relevance of a company’s business line to mission goals.
- Minimum of 15 and a maximum of 25 participating companies on the mission.
- Potential for business in the Region for the company.
- Provision of adequate information on the company’s products and/or services, and the company’s primary market objectives, in order to facilitate appropriate matching with potential business partners.
- Certification that the company meets Departmental guidelines for participation. Generally, a company’s products or services should be either produced in the United States, or, if not, marketed under the name of a U.S. firm and have at least 51 percent U.S. content of the value of the finished product or service.