Orrani Consulting have recently completed their first major project on food markets in Iraq for several years.
The project focused primarily on the three major consumption centres of Baghdad, Basra in the south and Erbil in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, with trade interviews and consumer discussion groups in each. It was certainly and interesting project, if not always an easy one!
The country's food and agriculture production has been completely devastated by three wars and years of international sanctions. There are many other factors hindering the rebuilding of the food and agribusiness sectors, including a significant level of corruption, government production controls, excessive regulations / red tape, continuing conflicts and instability, severe weather, state mismanagement and an electricity supply that is erratic at best.
However, on the other hand, Iraq represents a large and growing food market - its population of 31.3 million is estimated to grow by 2.4% annually. Current GDP per capita is US$6,400 and rising.
Hard data is scarce in Iraq, but it is thought that around 50-80% of the country's total food demand is imported every year. In 2011, total food imports reached US$16 billion and food demand during that year had increased by 25% over the previous year.
Given the amount of red tape and bureaucratic hurdles, never mind the local security situation, it is absolutely imperative for anyone wanting to enter the Iraqi food market to have a strong local partner.
The key attributes required include an effective business set-up, distribution network and in particular the right political support and connections. With such a partner and a long-term approach to the market, there may well be scope to take advantage of Iraq's growing market opportunities!