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Iraq: Agriculture
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > Agriculture


Since the beginning of recorded time, agriculture has been the primary economic activity of the people of Iraq. In 1976, agriculture contributed about 8 percent of Iraq's total GDP, and it employed more than half the total labor force. In 1986, despite a ten-year Iraqi investment in agricultural development that totaled more than US$4 billion, the sector still accounted for only 7.5 percent of total GDP, a figure that was predicted to decline. In 1986 agriculture continued to employ a significant portion -- about 30 percent -- of Iraq's total labor force. Part of the reason the agricultural share of GDP remained small was that the sector was overwhelmed by expansion of the oil sector, which boosted total GDP.

Large year-to-year fluctuations in Iraqi harvests, caused by variability in the amount of rainfall, made estimates of average production problematic, but statistics indicated that the production levels for key grain crops remained approximately stable from the 1960s through the 1980s, with yield increasing while total cultivated area declined. Increasing Iraqi food imports were indicative of agricultural stagnation. In the late 1950s, Iraq was self-sufficient in agricultural production, but in the 1960s it imported about 15 percent of its food supplies, and by the 1970s it imported about 33 percent of its food. By the early 1980s, food imports accounted for about 15 percent of total imports, and in 1984, according to Iraqi statistics, food imports comprised about 22 percent of total imports. Many experts expressed the opinion that Iraq had the potential for substantial agricultural growth, but restrictions on water supplies, caused by Syrian and Turkish dam building on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, might limit this expansion.

Data as of May 1988

Last Updated: May 1988

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Iraq was first published in 1988. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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