About 1/8 of Iraq is arable land, mainly in the north and northeast. Approximately 1/10 is permanent pasture. The most significant crops include: barley, wheat, rice, vegetables, corn (maize), millet, sugarcane, sugar beets, oil seeds, fruit, fodder, tobacco and cotton. Iraq was formerly the largest producer of dates, and is approaching increased production after a decline during the Iran-Iraq War. Animal husbandry is widely practiced, particularly among the Kurds of the northeast, producing milk, meat, hides and wool.
Oil was discovered in Iraq in 1927. Iraq has the world’s fifth largest petroleum reserves and it is also its most valuable mineral. Oil contributes the largest portion of GDP and constitutes most of Iraq’s foreign exchange. It has traditionally provided about 95% of foreign exchange earnings. Moreover, Iraq is thought to have untapped resources and minerals, such as salt, gypsum, and stone, in addition to large sulfur reserves. Iraq has multiple other industries such as chemicals, textiles, leather and metal processing.
All banks and insurance companies were nationalized in 1964. The Central Bank of Iraq (founded in 1947 and one of the first central banks in the Arab world) has the sole right to issue the Dinar, the national currency. The Rafidain Bank (1941) is the oldest commercial bank. In 1988, the state founded a second commercial bank, the Rasheed Bank. There are also three state-owned specialized banks: the Agricultural Co-operative Bank (1936), the Industrial Bank (1940), and the Real Estate Bank (1949). Beginning in 1991 the government authorized private banks to operate, albeit under the strict supervision of the Central Bank. The Baghdad Stock Exchange opened in 1992. In 2003, the Iraqi government removed restrictions on international bank transactions.
Facts and Statistics
- Exports (2009 est.)–$39.3 billion; export commodities–crude oil, crude materials excluding fuels, food and live animals. Export partners (2009)–U.S. 27.6%, India 14.5%, Italy 10.1%, South Korea 8.6%, Taiwan 5.6%, China 4.2%, Netherlands 4.1%, and Japan 4.0%.
- Imports (2009 est.)–$41.3 billion; import commodities–food, medicine, manufactured goods. Import partners (2009): Turkey 25.0%, Syria 17.4%, U.S. 8.7%, China 6.8%, Jordan 4.2%, Italy 4.0%, and Germany 4.0%.