Iraq has informed farmers of a ban on planting rice and other water-intensive crops in the face of increasing shortages because of drought and shrinking river flows.
A letter from the Minister of Water Resources Hassan al-Janabi to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office showed the ministry had decided to exclude rice and corn from the government's summer agriculture plan to prioritize drinking water, industry and vegetables.
"Rice and yellow corn are out of the summer agriculture plan due to lack of water. As a ministry we are embarrassed, especially as the crops are strategic and farmers had already prepared their land to plant them," agriculture ministry spokesman Hameed al-Nayef said.
"The Ministry of Agriculture cannot plant a single donhum without the approval of the Ministry of Water Resources."
Iraq planted 100,000 donhums of rice last season, he said.
One Iraqi donhum is equal to 2,500 square meters.
Problems with drought and shrinking water levels are further complicated by Turkey's plan to fill a huge dam on the Tigris, which had already started but was paused after complaints from Iraq.
About 70 percent of Iraq's water resources flow from neighboring countries, with the Tigris and Euphrates rivers – which run through Turkey -- particularly important sources.