An Israeli Dairy Farm in Iraqi Kurdistan?

Orthodox Jews walk along al-Shuhada street, past shuttered Palestinian owned shops daubed with the Jewish Star of David on 21 February 2013 as this road is only used by Israeli settlers. (Photo: AFP - Hazem Bader)

By: Yahya Dbouk

Published Friday, February 22, 2013

On Thursday, 21 February, 2013, the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth revealed that a high-level Kurdish delegation had recently visited Israel to discuss possible cooperation between the two sides. The paper noted that the visit, which took place days earlier in complete secrecy, had not been officially announced.

According to Yedioth Ahronoth, the visiting delegation was representing the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq (KRG), and comprised of KRG Vice President Kosrat Rasul, Minister of Agriculture Jamil Sleiman Haider, and a number of unnamed economic and agricultural experts.

The aim of the visit was to enhance cooperation between Israel and the KRG, and explore the possibility of tapping into Israeli expertise in fields like agriculture, poultry farming, and the production of dairy products.

As part of their tour, the Kurdish delegation visited the Afikim kibbutz in the Jordan Valley area of ​​the West Bank, where the delegation examined a model Israeli farm, in preparation for establishing a similar farm in the Kurdistan region of Iraq with help from Israel.

Yedioth Ahronoth also mentioned that the KRG vice president was invited to visit the headquarters of AfiMilk, the globally renowned Israeli agricultural company. The vice president expressed interest in purchasing high-tech agricultural equipment and collaborating with the company to build a model farm in Iraqi Kurdistan.

AfiMilk, according to the newspaper, is a leading company in its field, and has set up farms in more than 50 countries, including three believed to be the world’s largest in the US, China, and Vietnam.

The Israeli company has also overseen the establishment of a high-tech farm in Angola and established a center for camel milk production in Dubai.

According to sources cited by the Israeli paper, the model farm to be established in the Kurdistan region is set to become the largest and most advanced of its kind in Iraq.

Both the Israeli and Kurdish sides have prepared the necessary plans to market the products of the Israeli farm throughout all of Iraq, and not just the Kurdistan region. In this vein, Yedioth Ahronoth mentioned that an Israeli delegation of agricultural experts would soon travel to Iraqi Kurdistan to begin implementation.

The newspaper quoted Kurdish sources in the visiting delegation as expressing their hopes that joint cooperation with Israel would contribute to growth in Iraqi Kurdistan.

One member of the Kurdish delegation to Israel said, “It is hard to find locally-produced dairy products in the Kurdish market, although there are vast tracts of land available to build farms and high-tech facilities for poultry and livestock production. This has prompted the KRG to be on the lookout for special agricultural technology and expertise instead of relying on outdated traditional methods.”

Yet the newspaper claimed that the official Israeli media narrative maintained that the status of the relationship between the KRG and the Jewish state remained the same, with no formal diplomatic and trade ties.

Furthermore, the newspaper stated that the Israeli government currently does not encourage Israeli firms to invest in Iraq, a country it considers a geopolitical hotspot, particularly in light of the friction between Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey, and the close ties between the KRG and Iran.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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