Press Release

Economic recovery is slow for SMEs in Iraq during the second year of COVID-19

30 September 2021

Erbil — To measure the impact of COVID-19 on small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Iraq, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the International Trade Center (ITC) conducted a panel study of 716 SMEs, covering June 2020 to June 2021.

IOM, FAO and ITC have now released the Panel Study IV: Impact of COVID-19 on Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises in Iraq report. The study found that recovery from the economic slowdown produced by the COVID-19 virus has been sluggish in the surveyed SMEs. Roughly 25 per cent of the businesses was “very concerned” about recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

The 716 surveyed firms are located in 15 governorates with activities spanning 16 economic sectors, mainly in the food and agriculture sectors. The study assessed the impact on these firms when compared with non-agricultural businesses.

The first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Iraq in February 2020; since then, almost two million cases have been recorded. The new report presents the findings from four rounds of data, collected between June 2020 and June 2021, covering the effect of border closures and lockdowns on revenue, production, and employment; accessibility of resources or ability to sell products; and mechanisms adopted to cope with the crisis.

Almost all firms reported reductions in revenue in the early months of the pandemic, on average of 23 per cent between February and November 2020. By October 2020, revenue began to slowly recover. However, by the end of the study period in June 2021, the SMEs’ average monthly revenues hovered at around 60 per cent of pre-COVID-19 levels.

Between December 2020 and June 2021, 80 per cent of the SME owners who indicated they had taken on debt had done so due to the COVID-19 crisis. Most of those SMEs did so via informal means, such as borrowing money from friends and family.

On average, SME owners had lost two employees from their workforce between February, when lockdowns began as measure to control the public health crisis, and June 2020. However, by June 2021, over a year into the pandemic, SME owners had only one less employee compared to February 2020 meaning they were able to either re-hire staff or recruit new employees.

The ratio of male to female workers fluctuated throughout the pandemic. In February 2020, the SMEs in the study averaged one woman per 14 men. This ratio peaked in August 2020 at one woman per 20 men, suggesting a widening of the gender gap during this period.

The study was supported by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and the European Union.

Economic recovery is slow for SMEs in Iraq during the second year of COVID-19

 IOM Iraq’s Public Information Unit

IOM Iraq’s Public Information Unit

IOM
Salah Elhajjhassan

Salah Elhajjhassan

FAO
Representative
Mr Hajj Hassan, a national of Lebanon, holds a Ph.D. in Plant Production from the University of Agriculture, Damascus, Syria; a Master of Science degree in Plant Production and a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Engineering, both from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon.
He started his career in 1984, as Senior Research Assistant in the Agricultural Research and Education Centre (AREC), American University of Beirut. From 1987 to 1991, he was Coordinator of the Student Training Programme, and also Agriculture and Horticultural Teacher for the Faculty of Agriculture, at the Lebanese University.
From 1991 to 1995, he worked as Agricultural Engineer at the Ministry of Agriculture, Bekaa Regional Office, Zahlah and was then assigned to the Agricultural Research Institute in the Tal Amara station, first as Head of the Crop Production Department and subsequently in charge of the Plant Protection Laboratory. From 2002 to 2006, he was Director of the Kfardane Research Station (Agricultural Research Institute). In 2008, he became Visiting Scientist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) and Coordinator of a project with the International Centre for Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna.
In 2010, he served as Advisor to the Minister for Agriculture of Lebanon. In 2011, he became President of the Pesticide Scientific Committee, Head of the Phytoplasma Committee and Director of the Agriculture and Rural Development Programme (ARDP) (EU-funded project). From 2010 to 2013, he represented Lebanon in negotiations with EU, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq. During his career, Mr Hajj Hassan also carried out a number of other functions. He represented the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI) in several research programmes with the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and the American University of Beirut. He was Coordinator of the Mashreq/Maghreb project with ICARDA, representing Lebanon in the Steering Committee, as well as being the Head of the Sugar-beet Delivery and of the Wheat Delivery Committees. For a number of years, Mr Hajj Hassan worked for the preparation of FAO TCP projects and served as the National Director of a TCP project. He joined FAO in January 2014 as FAO Representative in Yemen. Mr Hajj Hassan succeeds Mr El Zubi as FAO Representative in Iraq.
Waqas Rafique

Waqas Rafique

ITC
Public Information Officer

UN entities involved in this initiative

FAO
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
IOM
International Organization for Migration
ITC
International Trade Centre

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