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Cablegate: Dart Update On the Status of Iraq's Public

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KUWAIT 002410

SIPDIS

STATE ALSO PASS USAID/W
STATE PLEASE REPEAT TO IO COLLECTIVE
STATE FOR PRM/ANE, EUR/SE, NEA/NGA, IO AND SA/PAB
NSC FOR EABRAMS, SMCCORMICK, STAHIR-KHELI, JDWORKEN
USAID FOR USAID/A, DCHA/AA, DCHA/RMT, DCHA/FFP
USAID FOR DCHA/OTI, DCHA/DG, ANE/AA
USAID FOR DCHA/OFDA:WGARVELINK, BMCCONNELL, KFARNSWORTH
USAID FOR ANE/AA:WCHAMBERLIN
ROME FOR FODAG
GENEVA FOR RMA AND NKYLOH
ANKARA FOR AMB WRPEARSON, ECON AJSIROTIC AND DART
AMMAN FOR USAID AND DART

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREF IZ WFP
SUBJECT: DART UPDATE ON THE STATUS OF IRAQ'S PUBLIC
DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. The Iraqi MOT called a meeting in Baghdad on 20 May of
the Governorate MOT directors to discuss preparations for
the first countrywide public food distribution since the war
ended, set to begin in June. Representatives from ORHA, the
DART, WFP, and Iraqi MOT attended. MOT officials raised
several issues that they feel must be resolved immediately,
and they agreed to work closely together toward the goal of
resuming the distribution of food rations in June. In
Basrah, a 23 May meeting of ORHA's "Lower South" PDS working
group was called to examine the food pipeline, ration
composition, and progress on re-establishing PDS
infrastructure. Issues common to the meetings were security
concerns, and infrastructure constraints. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- --------------
MOT BAGHDAD CALLS MEETING OF ALL GOVERNORATE MOT DIRECTORS
--------------------------------------------- --------------

2. The Ministry of Trade (MOT) and the Office of
Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), summoned
MOT officials representing each of the eighteen Iraqi
Governorates to a meeting held at a conference center near
the former Republican Guard Palace in Baghdad on 20 May.
Members of the DART and the U.N. World Food Program (WFP)
also attended. The ORHA official responsible for the
Minister of Trade, Ambassador Robin Raphel, chaired the
discussions, with an interpreter simultaneously translating
her comments from English into Arabic.

3. Ambassador Raphel assured the group that she was aware
of a multitude of problems facing the MOT. She asked that
each Governorate assess the status of the MOT buildings,
furniture, computers and personnel needed to revive the
public distribution system (PDS). She said ORHA would
provide the MOT in each Governorate with USD 50,000 to make
emergency repairs to warehouses, silos, grain elevators, and
office buildings to facilitate a resumption of the PDS in
June.

3. She also asked each Governorate representative to
provide the Ministry with a point of contact for the
program, which will be shared with the Coalition Civil
Affairs units in each region. (Note: As of 27 May, no DART
or WFP member is aware of the USD 50,000 payments yet being
provided. End Note.)

4. Ambassador Raphel introduced Yousef Abdel Rahman as the
Iraqi point of contact in the Ministry in Baghdad, and said
he will work with officials in each Governorate to compile a
report describing the status of the grain elevators and
silos in each area of the country.

5. PThe articipants repeated several times that the lack of
security is a primary concern in trying to revive the PDS.
Ambassador Raphel said there are plans to create a guard
force to secure the Ministry of Trade warehouses and silos.
(Comment: This process has begun in all Governorates in the
south; however, no single consistent approach is being used.
In some areas, MOT guards are being trained and armed by
Coalition forces. In other areas, MOT guards are to be
drawn from a broader pool of guard trainees -- a subset of
newly trained police forces. End Comment.)

--------------
LOCAL PURCHASE
--------------

6. After security, MOT managers' next greatest concern is
the question of the purchase of local grain production for
the National Strategic Reserves (NSR). Traditionally, Iraq's
MOT Grain Boards purchased locally-produced wheat at the end
of every harvest season. This year, there has been
confusion over how much grain would be purchased, where the
funds would come from, and how a severely damaged Grain
Board infrastructure could undertake the necessary quality
control and management of newly purchased stocks.

7. MOT managers were informed that ORHA, with assistance
from WFP, would purchase up to 1.2 million tons of grain
this year, and that an agreement was being developed which
would set the modalities of the purchase process, including
the purchase price. MOT managers stressed the need to act
quickly, because in many Governorates in the south, local
produce was already arriving at MOT warehouses and silos.

8. A related problem facing ORHA and the MOT are the
reported hundreds of thousands of tons of grain from last
year's crop remaining in the NSR. Anecdotal reports
indicate that large quantities of this grain may be
contaminated with aflotoxin at levels far exceeding those
acceptable for human or animal consumption. (Note:
Aflotoxins are carcinogenic and associated particularly with
liver cancer in humans. Aflotoxin contamination is common
in Iraq, and "acceptable" levels of aflotoxin contamination
are reported to far exceed international standards. End
Note.)

9. The ORHA/WFP/MOT local purchase agreement does establish
a mechanism of quality control for this year's harvest.
However, there is no plan in place for the assessment and
testing of grain currently in the NSR, nor recognition of
time and resources, which will be required to sample, test,
transport and destroy large quantities of grain.
Significant time will also be required for the cleaning of
silos and warehouses storing contaminated grain.

10. Ambassador Raphel has said she will determine if Iraq
has a facility to conduct a proper analysis of the wheat
before any action is taken to destroy it. DART and WFP will
discuss this issue further with the Food and Agricultural
Organization, and are proposing the immediate collection of
samples in each Governorate for independent testing in
Kuwait.

----------------------------------------
BASRAH LOWER SOUTH WORKING GROUP MEETING
----------------------------------------

11. At the weekly task force PDS meeting in Basrah on 23
May, members of the Coalition military forces, DART, ORHA,
MOT, and WFP discussed the status of the food commodities in
the "Lower South" - the four southern Governorates of
Maysan, Dhi Qar, Muthanna and Basrah. WFP stated there are
enough food supplies in the pipeline to begin the PDS on 1
June. However, quantities of powdered whole milk, part of
the adult PDS ration, are extremely low.

12. WFP reported that the MOT in Baghdad was in the process
of establishing a countrywide ration for the month of June,
which follows the pre-war practice. Coalition forces
expressed concern over this prospect, stressing the fact
that it was in the southern Governorates where distributions
at the end of March had been disrupted, and in Basrah
specifically, where the distribution shortfalls have not
been filled. (Note: Setting the ration involves taking
stock of the tonnage of each PDS commodity and making a
determination of the quantities of each commodity that each
person is to receive, if the quantities needed for the
optimal ration are unavailable. Transport among
Governorates is then required to ensure that sufficient
quantities are present in each Governorate. Before the war,
the MOT announced each month the quantities of each
commodity and the date the distribution would begin. End
Note.)

13. Because of these concerns, it was decided that
Ambassador Ole Olssen, the regional coordinator for ORHA in
the Lower South, would send a communication to ORHA/Baghdad
and MOT, outlining the Lower South preparations for the 1
June distributions. These preparations include: a) the
establishment of a ration consistent with existing and
expected stocks; b) the transport of commodities between
governorates to ensure a uniform ration; and c) finalization
of a distribution timeline by district for each Governorate.

14. While in Basrah on 27 May, the DART learned from WFP
that the MOT is due to notify WFP late on 28 May what the
ration will be for the June distribution.

JONES

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