Iraq’s prized rice crop threatened by drought

Men work in a rice mill in Iraq’s central province, on May 1. Drought is threatening the Iraqi tradition of growing amber rice, the aromatic basis of rich lamb and other dishes, and an important sector in a struggling economy. AFP
Men work in a rice mill in Iraq’s central province, on May 1. Drought is threatening the Iraqi tradition of growing amber rice, the aromatic basis of rich lamb and other dishes, and an important sector in a struggling economy. AFP
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Updated 15 May 2022

Iraq’s prized rice crop threatened by drought

Iraq’s prized rice crop threatened by drought

AL-ABASSIYA, IRAQ: Drought is threatening the Iraqi tradition of growing amber rice, the aromatic basis of rich lamb and other dishes, and a key element in a struggling economy.

The long-grained variety of rice takes its name from its distinctive scent, which is similar to that of amber resin. It is used in Iraqi meals including sumptuous lamb qouzi, mansaf and stuffed vegetables.

But after three years of drought and declining rainfall, Iraq's amber rice production will be only symbolic in 2022, forcing consumers to seek out imported varieties and leaving farmers pondering their future.

“We live off this land,” Abu Rassul says, standing near a small canal that in normal times irrigates his two hectares (five acres) near Al-Abassiya village in the central province of Najaf.

“Since I was a child I have planted amber rice,” says the farmer in his 70s, his face wrinkled and unshaven, dressed in a dazzling white dishdasha robe. “Water enables us to plant every year.”

Except for this one.

Water shortage

Normally, rice fields planted in mid-May should stay submerged all summer until October — but that is a luxury Iraq can no longer allow.

The country’s available water reserves “are well below our critical level of 18 billion cubic meters,” Shaker Fayez Kadhim, Najaf’s water resources manager, told AFP.

Rice drains between 10 and 12 billion cubic meters during its cultivation period of about five months, so it is “difficult to grow rice in Najaf or other provinces because of the high level of water it needs,” Kadhim said.

Previously, more than 70 percent of the amber crop was grown in Diwaniyah and neighboring Najaf provinces.

In early May, officials limited total rice crop areas to 1,000 hectares (2,471 acres), in Najaf and Diwaniyah only, according to the Agriculture Ministry.

The normal quota is 35 times that.

Water shortages have also led to reduced quotas for wheat farmers.

The country’s annual rice production had been 300,000 tons, according to Mohammed Chasseb, a senior official in the ministry’s planning department.

Climate change

Iraq is known in Arabic as the “country of the two rivers” — the Tigris and the Euphrates. But despite those two legendary water sources, the supply of water has been declining for years and the country is classified as one of five most vulnerable to climate change effects and desertification.

The consequences are dire: Depleted rivers, more intense sandstorms, declining crop yields — all of which add to the multiple challenges the country faces after decades of war and insurgency.

The Tigris and Euphrates, and their tributaries, originate in Turkey and Syria as well as Iran, which dams them upstream. This reduces the flow as they enter Iraq.

Call for action

Kadhim says the Euphrates has dropped to about one-third of its normal level. He wants “political action” to get more water flowing.

Ahmed Hassoun, 51, president of the Najaf farmers’ association, fears the worst.

“There is a risk of seeing rice cultivation disappear for lack of water," he said, blaming authorities.

“We know Iraq will have a shortage of rain in the coming years,” said Hassoun, an agricultural engineer. Despite that, nothing has been done to “modernize the irrigation system,” he complains.


TASI begins July in green following a dismal June: Opening bell

TASI begins July in green following a dismal June: Opening bell
Updated 17 sec ago

TASI begins July in green following a dismal June: Opening bell

TASI begins July in green following a dismal June: Opening bell

RIYADH: Saudi stocks started their first trading session of July in green, following a dismal performance in June when the market lost 11 percent.

As of Sunday’s opening bell, TASI gained 0.60 percent to reach 11,591, while the parallel market, Nomu, added 0.17 percent to 21,622, as of 10:05 a.m. Saudi time.

This was led by a 3.03 percent gain in one of the Kingdom’s biggest lenders Saudi National Bank and a 0.26 percent gain in oil giant Aramco. 

Etihad Atheeb Telecommunication Co. gained 3.37 percent to lead the gainers, while Bupa Arabia for Cooperative Insurance Co. slipped 2.51 percent to lead the fallers.

In the financial sector, the Kingdom’s largest valued bank Al Rajhi edged up 0.85 percent, while Alinma Bank climbed 0.90 percent.

Al Moammar Information Systems Co. added 2.22 percent, after being awarded SR34 million ($9 million) by Saudi Co. for Comprehensive Technical and Security Control as well as SR21.9 million by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology.

Abdullah Al Othaim Markets Co. edged down 0.19 percent, after reporting that it canceled the initial public offering plans for its malls unit.

Oil prices closed Friday with US West Texas Intermediate crude at $108.43 per barrel and Brent crude at $111.63 per barrel.


Saudi IT firm Al Moammar secures $15m in contracts with two firms

Saudi IT firm Al Moammar secures $15m in contracts with two firms
Updated 29 min 11 sec ago

Saudi IT firm Al Moammar secures $15m in contracts with two firms

Saudi IT firm Al Moammar secures $15m in contracts with two firms

RIYADH: Saudi IT solution provider Al Moammar Information Systems Co. won an SR34.4 million ($9 million) project with the Saudi Co. for Comprehensive Technical and Security Control.

The deal, valid for 36 months, is to implement a project to raise the operational efficiency of the security firm.

The IT firm, known as MIS, was also awarded a three-year contract with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology worth SR21.9 million, according to a bourse filing.

In a separate announcement, MIS said its board approved the distribution of SR36 million in dividends at SR1.2 per share for the first half of 2022.


Here’s what you need to know before Tadawul trading on Sunday

Here’s what you need to know before Tadawul trading on Sunday
Updated 34 min 3 sec ago

Here’s what you need to know before Tadawul trading on Sunday

Here’s what you need to know before Tadawul trading on Sunday

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s stock market posted its second-largest monthly decline of the year in June, led by fears of interest rate hikes weighing on investor optimism.

TASI, as the main index is known, ended June losing 11 percent to reach 11,523 at the closing bell of Thursday’s session, while Nomu exited the month at 21,585.

Elsewhere in the Gulf, stock exchanges of Dubai, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, and Oman shed between 0.1 and 0.7 percent, while those of Bahrain and Kuwait were up 0.8 and 0.2 percent, respectively.

In energy trading, Brent crude settled at $111.63 a barrel on Friday, while US West Texas Intermediate reached $108.43 a barrel.

Stock news

The Saudi National Bank will distribute dividends of SR4.9 billion ($1.3 billion) in total to its shareholders for the first half of 2022

Saudi Industrial Development Co.’s unit Sleep High signed a deal worth SR12.7 million annually with Emmdad Logistics Services

Al Moammar Information Systems Co. won a SR34.4 million project with the Saudi Co. for Comprehensive Technical and Security Control in addition to a SR21.9 million deal with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology

Al Moammar Information Systems Co.’s board of directors approved the distribution of SR1.2 per share in dividends for the first half of 2022

Arabian Pipes Co. was awarded a SR60 million deal to supply oil and gas steel pipes to oil giant Aramco

International Human Resources Co. intends to proceed with a 20-percent stake initial public offering on Saudi Arabia’s parallel Nomu market

Arabian Centres Co. declared a cash dividend of SR0.75 per share for the second half of its fiscal year ended March 31, 2022

Banque Saudi Fransi signed a SR44 million contract with Allianz Saudi Fransi Cooperative Insurance Co. for credit life insurance coverage

Shareholders of ACWA Power Co. approved the recommendation to distribute a SR0.77 dividend per share for 2021

Thimar Development Holding Co.’s losses widened by 79 percent to SR11.7 million in 2021

Shareholders of Bupa Arabia for Cooperative Insurance Co. approved a dividend payout of SR4.5 per share for the fiscal year 2021

L’azurde Co. for Jewelry got its shareholders’ approval to distribute cash dividends of SR0.25 per share for 2021

Al-Alamiya for Cooperative Insurance Co. sealed a five-year bancassurance distribution agreement with Riyad Bank

Unitholders of Albilad Saudi Sovereign Sukuk ETF are set to receive SR80,808 in total as cash dividends for the month of June

Saudi Real Estate Co.’s subsidiary Tamear got its shareholders’ approval to reduce capital from SR100 million to SR34 million

Calendar

July 4, 2022

Launch of single-stock futures trading on Tadawul

July 7, 2022

Saudi Exchange will close for Eid Al Adha holidays and resume trading on July 13


Saudi iHR selects Yaqeen Capital to advise on IPO for 20% stake

Saudi iHR selects Yaqeen Capital to advise on IPO for 20% stake
Updated 45 min 42 sec ago

Saudi iHR selects Yaqeen Capital to advise on IPO for 20% stake

Saudi iHR selects Yaqeen Capital to advise on IPO for 20% stake

RIYADH: Saudi recruitment service provider International Human Resources has selected Yaqeen Capital to advise on its potential initial public offering on the Kingdom’s stock market.

The company is looking to offer 500,000 shares, representing 20 percent of its capital, on the parallel market Nomu, according to a filing.

The IPO will be confined to qualified investors, who will be allowed to subscribe starting July 31 until Aug. 2.

Established in 2005, iHR offers human resources solutions and employment-related consultancy to businesses.

Saudi iHR selects Yaqeen Capital to advise on IPO for 20% stake

RIYADH: Saudi recruitment service provider International Human Resources has selected Yaqeen Capital to advise on its potential initial public offering on the Kingdom’s stock market.

The company is looking to offer 500,000 shares, representing 20 percent of its capital, on the parallel market Nomu, according to a filing.

The IPO will be confined to qualified investors, who will be allowed to subscribe starting July 31 until Aug. 2.

Established in 2005, iHR offers human resources solutions and employment-related consultancy to businesses.


Saudi Aramco awards $16m steel pipes order to Arabian Pipes

Saudi Aramco awards $16m steel pipes order to Arabian Pipes
Updated 03 July 2022

Saudi Aramco awards $16m steel pipes order to Arabian Pipes

Saudi Aramco awards $16m steel pipes order to Arabian Pipes

RIYADH: Saudi oil giant Aramco has given out an order worth SR60 million ($16 million) to homegrown Arabian Pipes Co. to supply steel pipes.

The contract will be valid for one year, the Riyadh-based pipe manufacturer said in a statement to the Saudi stock exchange, Tadawul.

Arabian Pipes expects the transaction to impact its financial statements starting from the second quarter of 2023.

This comes as an extension to two contracts awarded by Aramco to Arabian Pipes so far this year, worth SR368 million in total.