Posted by: Lister | December 28, 2007

Iraq to limit food rations

From 10 items to 5 items.

five items (will be distributed): Sugar, flour, rice, milk and (cooking) oil,” Sudany said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

Sudany said his ministry would continue to distribute its stockpiles of other items such as lentils, chickpeas and soap, but would be unable to buy more.

[…] Sudany said more than 60 percent of Iraq’s population rely on the rations.

Al-Jazeera:

The cuts, to be introduced at the beginning of 2008, have prompted criticism from those who have already warned of social unrest if measures are not taken to address rising poverty and unemployment.

Mohammed Hanoun, the Iraqi trade minister’s chief of staff, told Al Jazeera that a request for $7.2bn to cover 10 basic items currently rationed and subsidised by the government had been rejected.

“In 2007, we asked for $3.2 billion for rationing basic foodstuffs. But since the prices of imported food stuff doubled in the past year, we requested $7.2 billion for this year. That request was denied.”

The trade ministry is now set to slash the list of subsidised items by half to five basic food items, “namely, flour, sugar, rice, oil, and infant milk,” Hanoun said.

[…] Abud Falah al-Sudani, Iraq’s trade minister, warned that even a limited move to scrap the system would significantly increase hardships for the majority of Iraqis who depend heavily on the Saddam Hussein-era programme.

[…] Sarmed Abdel-Rahman, 39, a father of three and an unemployed Baghdad resident, is one of those Iraqis.

He told Al Jazeera that his family depended heavily on the food ration system after he lost his job one year ago.

“Reducing the number of subsidised items will turn my sons into malnourished children and put us into a level of poverty much worse than we have seen,” he said.

[…] Apart from the cut in subsidies, Baghdad also wants to reduce the number of people dependent on the rationing system by five million by June 2008.

Yet up to eight million Iraqis still require immediate emergency aid, with nearly half this number living in “absolute poverty”, according to the latest report by Oxfam and a coalition of Iraqi groups, including the NGO Coordination Committee of Iraq.

Najet Muhammad, 27, a mother of two and a Baghdad resident, said baby milk was unavailable for three months because the distribution system had fallen into the hands of rival militias. She said her already impoverished family was forced to divert money meant for house rent to buy milk at market prices. “If they reduce the quantity of the ration we will be displaced as the money to pay bills will have to be used for food,” Najet said. “If we are considered a poor family today, tomorrow, we will be considered absolutely desperate.”

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