Iraq scrambles to regrow its once world-leading fertiliser industry



Fertiliser prices have soared to new highs due to Russia's war in Ukraine, with the “big three” — phosphates, nitrates and potassium fertilisers — on average doubling since last year, reaching levels not seen since the 2008 commodity boom.

At that time, the price of diammonium phosphate (DAP), the world’s most commonly used fertiliser, rose nearly five-fold between early 2007 and 2008, from about $250 a tonne to more than $1,200.

Iraq, whose fertiliser production and exports soared in the 1970s and 80s, missed out on reaping the benefits of that global fertiliser boom. It was a missed opportunity to help the country move away from risky dependence on volatile oil revenue and boost its once thriving agriculture sector.

The latest increase, caused in part by a disruption of supplies from Russia and surging input costs, is another opportunity that Iraq is likely to struggle to capitalise on.

A reconstruction dream

Agriculture experts involved in Iraq’s reconstruction after the 2003 US-led invasion had hoped the country could cash in on fertiliser demand and create vital jobs.

This would revive the industry built up between the late 1960s and the start of the 1980s, when Iraq paid foreign contractors including Japan's Mitsubishi, US company MW Kellogg and Belgium firm Sybetra, among others, to build large factories and mines to extract raw materials and process them into fertiliser, including a factory in Baiji northern Iraq, the Akashat phosphate mine and processing plant for fertiliser in Anbar province, and another large site at Khor Al Zubeir in Basra.

Together, the facilities would turn Iraq into a fertiliser powerhouse, meeting domestic demand that would soar above two million tonnes, with room for millions of tonnes for export.

Iraq also had a critical advantage: producing fertiliser requires a great deal of energy and the country is rich in inputs for production, especially natural gas.

But the plants fell into disrepair as Iraq’s economy collapsed under sanctions following its invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Hopes that they could be revitalised after 2003 have yet to be realised.

ISIS destruction

Nineteen years after the US invasion and the subsequent war with ISIS, Iraq's Ministry of Industry and Minerals is picking up the scraps of this dream.

When the terror group took over large parts of the country, it destroyed fertiliser production plants — two of which were in the process of being rebuilt following more than two decades of conflict.

A failure to attract foreign investors, largely due to bureaucracy and concerns about corruption, has delayed new projects needed to revive Iraq as a fertiliser exporter.

The fragile security situation following the war with ISIS, combined with a plunge in oil prices during the conflict, left Iraq’s largest phosphate mines in Anbar and the nearby sprawling industrial complex at Al Qaim idle, said Wajdi Al Rawi, spokesman for the state-owned General Phosphate Company.

“The phosphate company is going through difficult times,” Mr Al Rawi told The National.

He said peak production was in 1991, with about two million tonnes of all kinds of fertilisers produced — almost equivalent to Iraq's current demand.

Much of its production was exported to countries including the Gulf states, with the revenue supplying 17 per cent of the national budget, he said.

But the complex became a target for the US-led international coalition in the 1991 Gulf War to drive Saddam Hussein’s army out of Kuwait.

“That attack was a heavy one; it damaged about 60 per cent of the complex,” Mr Al Rawi said.

“Operations resumed later, but we couldn’t export and the production was barely covering 30 to 40 per cent of the local demand.”

The situation continued until the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam.

“Then, it was also hit by an air strike but that left minor damages,” Mr Al Rawi said.

Reconstruction stalls

Efforts to rebuild the Akashat mine and processing plant point to the struggle Iraq has faced since 2003.

Production was barely 10 per cent of its peak output — about 200,000 tonnes — in 2003 but had collapsed to only 500 tonnes by 2006 as insurgents and US and allied Iraqi forces fought for control of Anbar.

The security situation hampered the supply of raw materials, including sulphuric acid from Mishraq near Mosul, an industrial facility that was also destroyed twice — after 2003 and during the war against ISIS.

A railway dedicated to the site fell into disrepair and there was not enough electricity to keep industrial processes going, a US State Department cable said in 2006.

The story at the Baiji plant is similar: a major refinery was co-located with the fertiliser production site and both were bombed during the 1991 Gulf War and later during the conflict with ISIS, when fighting raged across the huge complex. Militias aligned with Iran looted much of what remained.

Baiji had been set for a revival, with an effort to ramp up fertiliser production to full capacity by 2014, the year ISIS began their rampage.

“Without question, Iraq has the capacity to produce all its needs of fertiliser and more,” said Hadi Fathallah, an expert on agriculture in Iraq who has advised several financial institutions on agriculture and food policy in the country.

“The Baiji complex alone could meet the demand. Baiji is huge and had so much potential for everything — from refining to fertiliser production. But there is also a political economy to it, as with anything in Iraq.”

Mr Fathallah was referring to competition between state-owned companies, including refineries in northern, central and southern Iraq, often connected to Iraq’s bickering political parties in Baghdad and Erbil, and, at the local level, tribal competition for involvement in projects.

Complicating matters is the competition over control of production inputs, including natural gas.

“Now everything is focused on the state company for fertilisers which produces sulphuric acid, ammonia, urea and ammonia sulphate, all in the south — in Basrah, Khor Al Zubeir and Abo Al Khassib, although the latter is offline,” Mr Fathallah said.

“The company recently added a line for DAP fertilisers in 2021. The main challenge with revamping the fertiliser industry is getting electricity [and natural gas].”

While Iraq is infamously short on electricity, natural gas is in abundance. But infrastructure to capture and process it is expensive and Iraq has been slow to take advantage of this potential competitive edge.

Mr Fathallah said, however, that recent developments point to a more hopeful future, notwithstanding political problems and the requirement for gas.

“This is one of the major challenges for the private sector to invest in the industry in Iraq,” he said.

“Reefco in Babil has entered the market and the government needs to incentivise and protect the private sector to enter and invest.”

More recently, British company AAA Holding began fertiliser production in Basra with Iraq’s Southern Fertiliser Public Company. The joint venture announced a new DAP fertiliser project had come online in Basra with an annual capacity for 500,000 tonnes.

For the foreseeable future, however, major projects will depend on foreign support, such as the Japanese-funded project to rebuild the Khor Al Zubeir plant, which was completed in March and produces enough fertiliser to meet 50 per cent of local demand.

Recycle Reuse Repurpose

New central waste facility on site at expo Dubai South area to  handle estimated 173 tonne of waste generated daily by millions of visitors

Recyclables such as plastic, paper, glass will be collected from bins on the expo site and taken to the new expo Central Waste Facility on site

Organic waste will be processed at the new onsite Central Waste Facility, treated and converted into compost to be re-used to green the expo area

Of 173 tonnes of waste daily, an estimated 39 per cent will be recyclables, 48 per cent  organic waste  and 13 per cent  general waste.

About 147 tonnes will be recycled and converted to new products at another existing facility in Ras Al Khor

Recycling at Ras Al Khor unit:

Plastic items to be converted to plastic bags and recycled

Paper pulp moulded products such as cup carriers, egg trays, seed pots, and food packaging trays

Glass waste into bowls, lights, candle holders, serving trays and coasters

Aim is for 85 per cent of waste from the site to be diverted from landfill 

Mina Cup winners

Under 12 – Minerva Academy

Under 14 – Unam Pumas

Under 16 – Fursan Hispania

Under 18 – Madenat

SPEC SHEET: SAMSUNG GALAXY S24 ULTRA

Display: 6.8" quad-HD+ dynamic Amoled 2X, 3120 x 1440, 505ppi, HDR10+, 120Hz

Processor: 4nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, 64-bit octa-core

Memory: 12GB RAM

Storage: 256/512GB / 1TB

Platform: Android 14, One UI 6.1

Main camera: quad 200MP wide f/1.7 + 50MP periscope telephoto f/3.4 with 5x optical/10x optical quality zoom + 10MP telephoto 2.4 with 3x optical zoom + 12MP ultra-wide f/2.2; 100x Space Zoom; auto HDR, expert RAW

Video: 8K@24/30fps, 4K@30/60/120fps, full-HD@30/60/240fps, full-HD super slo-mo@960fps

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Battery: 5000mAh, fast wireless charging 2.0, Wireless PowerShare

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Durability: IP68, up to 1.5m of freshwater up to 30 minutes; dust-resistant

SIM: Nano + nano / nano + eSIM / dual eSIM (varies in different markets)

Colours: Titanium black, titanium grey, titanium violet, titanium yellow

In the box: Galaxy S24 Ultra, USB-C-to-C cable

Price: Dh5,099 for 256GB, Dh5,599 for 512GB, Dh6,599 for 1TB

Korean Film Festival 2019 line-up

Innocent Witness, June 26 at 7pm

On Your Wedding Day, June 27 at 7pm

The Great Battle, June 27 at 9pm

The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion, June 28 at 4pm

Romang, June 28 at 6pm

Mal Mo E: The Secret Mission, June 28 at 8pm

Underdog, June 29 at 2pm

Nearby Sky, June 29 at 4pm

A Resistance, June 29 at 6pm 

 

AUSTRALIA SQUADS

ODI squad: Aaron Finch (captain), Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa

Twenty20 squad: Aaron Finch (captain), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa

How to watch Ireland v Pakistan in UAE

When: The one-off Test starts on Friday, May 11
What time: Each day’s play is scheduled to start at 2pm UAE time.
TV: The match will be broadcast on OSN Sports Cricket HD. Subscribers to the channel can also stream the action live on OSN Play.

On Instagram: @WithHopeUAE

Although social media can be harmful to our mental health, paradoxically, one of the antidotes comes with the many social-media accounts devoted to normalising mental-health struggles. With Hope UAE is one of them.
The group, which has about 3,600 followers, was started three years ago by five Emirati women to address the stigma surrounding the subject. Via Instagram, the group recently began featuring personal accounts by Emiratis. The posts are written under the hashtag #mymindmatters, along with a black-and-white photo of the subject holding the group’s signature red balloon.
“Depression is ugly,” says one of the users, Amani. “It paints everything around me and everything in me.”
Saaed, meanwhile, faces the daunting task of caring for four family members with psychological disorders. “I’ve had no support and no resources here to help me,” he says. “It has been, and still is, a one-man battle against the demons of fractured minds.”
In addition to With Hope UAE’s frank social-media presence, the group holds talks and workshops in Dubai. “Change takes time,” Reem Al Ali, vice chairman and a founding member of With Hope UAE, told The National earlier this year. “It won’t happen overnight, and it will take persistent and passionate people to bring about this change.”

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE.

Part three: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

Read part one: how cars came to the UAE

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Co Chocolat

Started: 2017

Founders: Iman and Luchie Suguitan

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Food

Funding: $1 million-plus

Investors: Fahad bin Juma, self-funding, family and friends

Meydan card

6.30pm: Al Maktoum Challenge Round-1 (PA) Group 1 US$65,000 (Dirt) 1,600m
7.05pm: Conditions (TB) $100,000 (Turf) 1,400m
7.40pm: UAE 2000 Guineas Trial (TB) $100,000 (D) 1,600m
8.15pm: Handicap (TB) $175,000 (T) 1,200m
8.50pm: Al Maktoum Challenge Round-1 (TB) Group 2 $350,000 (D) 1,600m
9.25pm: Handicap (TB) $175,000 (D) 1,900m
10pm: Handicap (TB) $135,000 (T) 1,600m

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

The specs

Engine: 6.2-litre V8

Transmission: ten-speed

Power: 420bhp

Torque: 624Nm

Price: Dh325,125

On sale: Now

The biog

Name: Fareed Lafta

Age: 40

From: Baghdad, Iraq

Mission: Promote world peace

Favourite poet: Al Mutanabbi

Role models: His parents 

Buy farm-fresh food

The UAE is stepping up its game when it comes to platforms for local farms to show off and sell their produce.

In Dubai, visit Emirati Farmers Souq at The Pointe every Saturday from 8am to 2pm, which has produce from Al Ammar Farm, Omar Al Katri Farm, Hikarivege Vegetables, Rashed Farms and Al Khaleej Honey Trading, among others. 

In Sharjah, the Aljada residential community will launch a new outdoor farmers’ market every Friday starting this weekend. Manbat will be held from 3pm to 8pm, and will host 30 farmers, local home-grown entrepreneurs and food stalls from the teams behind Badia Farms; Emirates Hydroponics Farms; Modern Organic Farm; Revolution Real; Astraea Farms; and Al Khaleej Food. 

In Abu Dhabi, order farm produce from Food Crowd, an online grocery platform that supplies fresh and organic ingredients directly from farms such as Emirates Bio Farm, TFC, Armela Farms and mother company Al Dahra. 

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

MATCH INFO

Uefa Champions League quarter-final, second leg (first-leg score)

Porto (0) v Liverpool (2), Wednesday, 11pm UAE

Match is on BeIN Sports

Zidane's managerial achievements

La Liga: 2016/17
Spanish Super Cup: 2017
Uefa Champions League: 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18
Uefa Super Cup: 2016, 2017
Fifa Club World Cup: 2016, 2017

In 2018, the ICRC received 27,756 trace requests in the Middle East alone. The global total was 45,507.

 

There are 139,018 global trace requests that have not been resolved yet, 55,672 of these are in the Middle East region.

 

More than 540,000 individuals approached the ICRC in the Middle East asking to be reunited with missing loved ones in 2018.

 

The total figure for the entire world was 654,000 in 2018.

Abu Dhabi traffic facts

Drivers in Abu Dhabi spend 10 per cent longer in congested conditions than they would on a free-flowing road

The highest volume of traffic on the roads is found between 7am and 8am on a Sunday.

Travelling before 7am on a Sunday could save up to four hours per year on a 30-minute commute.

The day was the least congestion in Abu Dhabi in 2019 was Tuesday, August 13.

The highest levels of traffic were found on Sunday, November 10.

Drivers in Abu Dhabi lost 41 hours spent in traffic jams in rush hour during 2019

 

Brief scores:

England: 290 & 346

Sri Lanka: 336 & 243

Results:

6.30pm: Maiden Dh165,000 2,000m - Winner: Powderhouse, Sam Hitchcott (jockey), Doug Watson (trainer)

7.05pm: Handicap Dh165,000 2,200m - Winner: Heraldic, Richard Mullen, Satish Seemar

7.40pm: Conditions Dh240,000 1,600m - Winner: Walking Thunder, Connor Beasley, Ahmed bin Harmash

8.15pm: Handicap Dh190,000 2,000m - Winner: Key Bid, Fernando Jara, Ali Rashid Al Raihe

8.50pm: The Garhoud Sprint Listed Dh265,000 1,200m - Winner: Drafted, Sam Hitchcott, Doug Watson

9.25pm: Handicap Dh170,000 1,600m - Winner: Cachao, Tadhg O’Shea, Satish Seemar

10pm: Handicap Dh190,000 1,400m - Winner: Rodaini, Connor Beasley, Ahmed bin Harmash

Sreesanth's India bowling career

Tests 27, Wickets 87, Average 37.59, Best 5-40

ODIs 53, Wickets 75, Average 33.44, Best 6-55

T20Is 10, Wickets 7, Average 41.14, Best 2-12

Arabian Gulf Cup FINAL

Al Nasr 2

(Negredo 1, Tozo 50)

Shabab Al Ahli 1

(Jaber 13)

Updated: July 29, 2022, 6:00 PM

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