Iraq's poultry imports are steadily increasing due to population growth, rising incomes resulting from oil revenues, and its price advantage over red meats, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest report.

Total imports for 2012, including transshipments through regional countries, are expected to be 603,000 metric tons, up 3 percent from 2011's 598,000 metric tons. U.S. poultry exports to Iraq in 2012, including transshipments, are expected to decline moderately to 137,000 metric tons from 2011's 160,000 metric tons due to difficulties with precertification requirements and increased competition from other suppliers (i.e., turkey). Yet the outlook for U.S. poultry imports remains positive, as imports are expected to continue increasing with the growing market, according to the USDA.

Iraq’s precertification program continues to be U.S. poultry’s largest obstacle to trade with Iraq. Precertification was proposed by the Ministry of Planning/Central Organization for Standards and Quality Control, approved by the Council of Ministers in December 2010, and implemented July 1, 2011. It was enacted to control imports of substandard and unsafe product, a serious problem. Products arriving in the lower 15 provinces in 2011 and 2012 were required to have a certificate of conformity issued.

However, the northern Kurdish region did not implement precertification for food products, so poultry enters Iraq from Turkey without issue. Precertification has proven to be a major technical barrier to U.S. trade and ineffective in controlling import quality and safety, and has distorted normal trading patterns and routes resulting in increased transshipments to Iraq through regional countries.