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Three essays on wheat production efficiency in Iraq: comparison between MENA countries and internal comparison of districts




Altaie, Karrar, author
Pritchett, James, advisor
Koontz, Stephen, committee member
Bonanno, Alessandro, committee member
Cutler, Harvey, committee member

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Wheat is an important staple of the Iraqi diet, as it is for all the nineteen Middle East North African (MENA) countries. Wheat is also an important crop for farmers in the rural areas of these countries. Yet, all the MENA countries import wheat, and the gap between growing demands and local supplies is widening. This gap is prompting general concerns of food security and driving interest in wheat productive efficiency. The focus of this dissertation is examining the technical efficiency of wheat production with a goal of informing policy decisions in Iraq. In this research, a conceptual approach of wheat productive efficiency is developed based on existing models and is translated into an empirical framework. The approach evaluates the relationships between different kinds of inputs such as human capital, financial capital, operational capital, imports and sociodemographic factors and the resulting wheat output. Inputs related to temperature, humidity and irrigation pattern also included. Technical efficiency (TE) scores and factors affecting TE are explored with two empirical methods: Stochastic Frontier Analysis (SFA) and Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA). These methods are applied in two essays: panel data exploring Middle East North African countries and a cross sectional data of wheat producing districts in Middle and South of Iraq. A third essay synthesizes the result of the two empirical explorations. In the first essay factors that affected productive efficiency are: • Human capital: population (positive relationship with wheat production per unit of land). • Operating capital: harvested area (negative relationship), number of tractors (negative relationship), number of harvesters (negative relationship), pesticides (positive relationship), urea (positive relationship), seeds (negative relationship). • Financial capital: net national income (positive relationship). • Import effect: imported quantity (negative relationship). Also, factors that explained variation in TE are: • Human capital: farmers with access to electricity (negative relationship), ratio of farmers population to urban population (negative relationship), extension specialist per 100,000 farmers (positive relationship), employment of female workforce within agriculture (positive relationship). • Financial capital: credit to farmers (positive relationship). • Energy used in agriculture effect: aggregated energy (negative relationship). • Other agricultural competing activity: Livestock density (negative relationship). • Politics effect: political instability (negative relationship). • Surface irrigation effect: availability of the flow of surface water (negative relationship). • Elevation effect: elevation (positive relationship). In the second essay, factors affecting technical efficiency are: • Human capital: ratio of farmers population to urban population (positive relationship). • Financial capital: producer price index (negative relationship). • Surface irrigation effect: distance to the flow of surface water (negative relationship). The SFA and DEA indicate contradictory results. This might due to the randomness in SFA the DEA does not incorporate. Average technical efficiency score for MENA countries adopting SFA equals 62% while it equals 97% when DEA is used. In the second essay, TE equals 63% while it equals 88% when DEA is adopted. Results obtained from essay 1 and essay 2 used to obtain policies showed in essay 3. Those policies may not only have their positive effect on increasing TE but also on enhancing yield per unit for MENA countries and Iraq in particular. Policies mentioned in essay 3 suggested a strong attention has to be paid to extension role in agriculture. Policy lever that Iraq can use to improve TE is investing in the quality of human capital through increasing the level of education for farmers.


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