Iraq has only 190,000 tons of rice left for food program: Trade Ministry

An Iraqi farmer plants amber rice in the Mishkhab region, central Iraq. (AFP/File)
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Updated 01 June 2020

Iraq has only 190,000 tons of rice left for food program: Trade Ministry

  • The country needs around 1-1.25 million tons of rice a year to support the food rationing initiative

BAGHDAD: Iraq has only 190,000 tons of rice available in its coffers for its food rationing program, the Trade Ministry said in a statement late on Saturday.

The country needs around 1-1.25 million tons of rice a year to support the program.

In March, the ministry pleaded for money from the state’s budget to build three months’ supply of strategic wheat and rice stockpiles as Iraq grappled with the spread of the new coronavirus.

The ministry renewed its call for more funds, saying the allocations were crucial, despite “difficulties” with the budget, because many Iraqis are “struggling to provide their daily food due to tough economic conditions amid the coronavirus crisis.”

Iraq, a major Middle East wheat and rice buyer, was politically gridlocked after former Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi was ousted by nationwide anti-corruption protests, hampering efforts to get a state budget approved before the start of the calendar year.

Iraq’s grain board, which falls under the Trade Ministry, holds regular international tenders to import wheat and rice for the rationing program, which also covers cooking oil, flour and sugar.


Vaccine progress lifts stocks, dollar still sickly

Updated 24 November 2020

Vaccine progress lifts stocks, dollar still sickly

  • STOXX index of Europe’s 600 largest firms rises to its highest since February

LONDON: Investors scooped up stocks, commodities and emerging-market currencies and gave the dollar a wide berth as AstraZeneca and Oxford University provided markets with their now-regular Monday shot of encouraging COVID-19 vaccine news.

The STOXX index of Europe’s 600 largest firms rose to its highest since February, Wall Street was pointing up 0.6 percent and Brent futures were nearly 1.5 percent stronger. AstraZeneca and Oxford vaccine, which is set to cost just a few dollars a shot and should be easier to ramp up and store than vaccines by Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna, could also be up to 90 percent effective.

As the dollar buckled through a range it has been in for the past few months, the euro touched $1.19, but it was the emerging markets that are likely to benefit from a cheaper and easier-to-store drug that rallied the most.

South Africa’s rand shrugged off a double sovereign credit-rating downgrade over the weekend to add 0.8 percent. Russia’s rouble and Mexican peso both climbed half a percent to bolster their stellar months.

“The combined vaccine news of the last few weeks ... will lead to a much faster pace of normalization to our daily lives compared to what we would have assumed just a few weeks ago,” analysts at Deutsche Bank said.

Markets’ optimism also came after a top official of the US government’s vaccine-development effort said Sunday that the first vaccines there could be given to US health care workers and some others by mid-December.

US shares looked set to mimic gains in Europe and Asia, as Nasdaq futures rose 0.4 percent, Dow futures rose 0.7 percent, and US e-mini futures for the S&P 500 were 0.6 percent higher at 3,576.

The rally also showed investors are willing to look past the grim US case numbers — which topped 12 million over the weekend — and mixed European economic data released on Monday. IHS Markit’s headline flash composite PMI, seen as a good guide to economic health, fell to 45.1 in November from October’s 50.0 — the level separating growth from contraction. A Reuters poll had predicted a shallower dip to 46.1.

The composite future output index jumped to 60.1 from 56.5, its highest since February.

“Today’s vaccine news is positive, but it is only partly responsible for the rally in stock markets,” said Philip Shaw, chief economist at Investec in London. “(It) is also being driven by the news that the US hopes to start the vaccination program in under three weeks.”