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Iraq replaces the head of its state grain agency amid protests

Millions of Iraqis depend on rations of essential foodstuffs [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 October, 2019

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Iraq has replaced the head of its national grain buying agency in a move thought to be linked to ongoing anti-corruption protests. Millions of Iraqis are dependent on grain rations.
Iraq has replaced the head of its national grain buying agency amid continuing violent protests in the country, Reuters news agency reported on Tuesday.

Naeem al-Maksousi was replaced by Hassanein Mahdi Elwan, according to a government document obtained by Reuters.

Iraq is a major importer of wheat and rice. The government presented the replacement of the head of the Grain Board of Iraq as a routine move.

However, a trader with expertise in the Iraqi grain market said that the change was linked to the continued protests over corruption and poverty, which have been ongoing for a week and have claimed more than 100 lives.

Read more: How humiliation is fuelling the Arab street

"The government has to make some changes with all what is happening in the country, " the trader, who requested anonymity, told Reuters.

The Grain Board of Iraq is an agency of the Iraqi Ministry of Trade and handles billions of dollars worth of rice and wheat purchases annually. Maksousi has headed the board since 2018.

Many Iraqis are dependent on a massive system of state rationing which covers flour, cooking oil, sugar, and baby milk formula as well as grain.

The rationing programme began in 1991, after the UN imposed sanctions against Iraq when it invaded Kuwait.

On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi announced a series of policy changes in response to the protests, including land distribution and welfare stipends for needy families.

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