"While Iraq is viewed as a desert nation, it has fertile river valleys in its central and southern sectors and adequate rainfall in regions to grow a variety of crops and to raise livestock.
Experts said agriculture and agribusiness have been Iraq's second-leading income generator behind oil. Development Alternatives Inc., which managed the Agency for International Development contract, estimated that the sector supported about 27 percent of the country's population until wars, poor government policies, economic sanctions and drought brought the sector to the brink of collapse.
By 2002, a country that once satisfied a large portion of its own food needs was importing 80 percent to 100 percent of many staples such as wheat, rice, sugar and protein meals, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. A distribution system of free food implemented in Iraq the mid-1990s undermined efforts to revive the ag sector and continued violence after the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003 has made the rebuilding effort harder, officials said. "
And here's my friend's comment: "Talk about a re-working of history. no mention of the 13 years US/UN sanctions/blockade. the distribution system was the only small step that kept mass-starvation at bay during the sanctions, and the food items were also used as barter. but this statement here reveals why the US did not disallow it - as it prohibited the distribution of medicines into Iraq during the sanctions: the goal WAS to destroy the Iraqi agriculture". (thanks Rania)