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Iraq's Local Businesses Thrive amid Lockdown

Iraq's Local Businesses Thrive amid Lockdown

Thursday, 28 May, 2020 - 04:45
Iraqis walk through a fresh produce market in the southern Iraqi city of Basra as some lockdown restrictions imposed during the novel coronavirus pandemic have been eased. AFP
Asharq Al-Awsat

A national lockdown in Iraq to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic has been favored by local businesses who no longer have to compete with Turkish, Iranian or Chinese imports.

Amin Qassem, who has operated in an ice cream factory in the oil-rich province of Basra since 2006 expressed his satisfaction over the new circumstances.

"The coronavirus crisis has allowed us to prove ourselves on the Iraqi market," he said.

"When there was cheap ice cream coming in from Iran, I had to lower my prices to sell so that my ice cream wouldn't be stuck melting in storage," he added .

"Now, I can sell at higher prices. We were able to win back the same markets where imports once crushed us."

Meanwhile, Hadi Abbud, who owns a plastics factory also in Basra, has already reported an exponential surge in orders for plastic tubing, usually brought in from China, AFP reported.

His factory has been working 24/7 to mould, cut and polish thick plastic cylinders proudly stamped "Made in Iraq."

"These days, I'm getting new orders for plastic tubes faster than I can even produce them," said Abbud, his white hair meticulously combed back.

Sales are so good he is planning to recruit another 50 workers for his 100-man factory.

"The situation has really changed," Abbud said, his smile barely concealed by the face mask he wore as part of mandated social distancing in his factory.

According to AFP, even at sea, the difference is notable.

"Starting around a month ago, there have been many more fish," said Mohammed Fadel, who sells his daily catch at a stand in Basra's downtown market.

In Basra's markets, tables are now heaving with rows of silvery fish and buckets of prawns, carefully examined by shoppers in gloves and masks.

The catches are so plentiful that a kilogramme of "zubeidy," a local sea bream, has dropped from $16 to $9.

"The number of fish -- and the prices -- are just extraordinary," said Fadel.

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