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Not enough storage as Kurdistan potato production ramps up

Potato cultivation in Kurdistan

Good potato harvests for the past seven years has led to a production surplus in the Kurdistan region, as farmers continue to allocate more land to cultivating potatoes.

The amount increased from nearly 11,000 tons of produced potatoes in 2008 to nearly 139,000 tons this year, a 13-fold increase, according to data provided by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Samir Salim, a general manager at the ministry, told Rudaw that farmers have in the past two years produced 60,000 tons more than Kurdistan’s total consumption.

“We need roughly 80,000 tons of potatoes a year to meet the domestic demand, but as of August this year we had over 139,000 tons,” Salim said. He added that the total production for 2015 will be even higher, as a new round of harvest would start in early September.

Salim said that lack of proper storage houses has made it increasingly difficult to preserve the potatoes and as a result they have exported much of it to Saudi Arabia and to Iraq’s southern provinces.

“Our farmers are more experienced now and plow their lands using advanced methods,” he said, adding that Kurdistan plans to become a regional leader in exporting potatoes.

Ali Qadir, a local farmer in Mastawe village south of Erbil, started with two tons of potatoes in 2009. This year Qadir had 5,000 tons after harvest.

“I could on my own provide the whole of Erbil with potatoes if only enough storage houses were there,” he said.

The total revenues from the sale of potatoes both domestically and exports is more than $60 million, according to the ministry.

But despite the surplus, Kurdistan is still importing potatoes from abroad, since it lacks room to store potatoes in the winter seasons.

“This is really contradictory, but we export 70 percent of the production because we cannot store it,” Salim added.