Iraq’s import ban on dates drives up prices ahead of Ramadan

Date prices have spiked in Kurdistan Region’s markets ahead of the holy month of Ramadan. Traders in Erbil blame Iraq’s ban on cheaper foreign imports.

Muslims traditionally break their daily fast during Ramadan by eating dates. As a result, the price of the dried fruit often goes up during the holy month.

However, according to local traders in Erbil’s markets, prices are even higher than previous years owing to the Iraqi government’s ban on the import of cheaper foreign dates and the lifting of internal duties between Iraqi provinces and the Kurdistan Region.

"Last year during Ramadan, the price of one box of dates was 9,000 dinars ($7.55). The price has now reached 32,000 dinars ($26.80) because of the unification of customs fees,” one local shopkeeper told Rudaw.  

"Because of this, they don’t allow dates from other places to be imported to the Kurdistan Region. Rather, it should come from Basra. Date prices will go up if they are imported from there.”

Tensions between Erbil and Baghdad led to the imposition of internal customs borders between the Kurdistan Region and the rest of federal Iraq. Importers were often taxed twice when moving goods – first at the international border and again at the internal border. 

Now relations have improved, these internal taxes have been removed, unifying the customs regime.

However, Iraq and the Kurdistan Region have long been dependent on cheap foreign imports from Turkey, Iran, and elsewhere, harming local farming and manufacturing. 

Although the import ban will help southern Iraq’s struggling domestic date producers, the move is hitting customers in the pocket. 

"The Iraqi government has decided to ban date imports because of local products. And we don’t have dates,” another shop keeper told Rudaw.

"Ten days ago, a box of dates was for 20,000 dinars ($16.80). Now it has risen to 32,000 dinars ($26.80). The price could go up to 40,000 dinars ($33.55) if the ban on date imports is not lifted.”

"This way, the poor can only look at dates.”

The holy month of Ramadan begins Monday, May 6. 

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