Israeli dairy farm planned in northern Iraq
It sounds like an imaginary story, but the plan is already in action. Kibbutz Afikim in the Jordan Valley is planning to set up an Israeli dairy farm in northern Iraq's Kurdistan region, with the hopes that Baghdad's residents will get to enjoy its products in the future.
The project is currently taking place under a veil of secrecy. Yedioth Ahronoth has learned that a delegation led by Kurdistan's agriculture minister and vice president visited the offices of AfiMilk in the kibbutz recently.
The two officials expressed their interest in purchasing an advanced milking facility and receiving professional support in a bid to build a dairy farm in northern Iraq according to the successful Israeli model.
The AfiMilk company has a global reputation in this field and has so far built dairy farms in more than 50 countries. Three of them – in Texas, Beijing and Vietnam – are among the biggest in the world. The company has also established a modern dairy farm in Mongolia and a camel milking facility in Dubai.
The Afikim dairy farm is not the biggest in Israel, but is the most technologically advanced and has a very high milk production.
The Israeli dairy farm in Kurdistan is expected to be the biggest and most advanced in Iraq, and the plan is that the residents of Iraq will enjoy its products as well. An Israeli delegation of dairy farmers and engineers is planning a visit to northern Iraq to begin implementing the plan.
Kurdistan officials hope the dairy farm will contribute to the region's economy, as the area has been suffering from financial difficulties since the Saddam Hussein era, as well as tense relations with Turkey.
Members of the Kurdish delegation appeared enthusiastic over the Israeli dairy farm, expressing a special interest in the AfiFarm herd management software.
"Today it is difficult to find locally-made dairy products in our markets," one of the delegation members said. "However, we do have spacious areas suitable for growing hay and building cowsheds. We have the basis, but we need technology and knowledge.
"The production of milk today is done in out-of-date and traditional ways, as farmers lack professional knowledge and access to modern technologies, which we hope to complete through Israel.
"The Kurdistan government has set a goal to meet the demand for locally-produced food and curb the need to import basic food from foreign countries," the Kurdish official said.
Kurdistan is an autonomous region of Iraq and has no diplomatic or trade relations with Israel. The Israeli government does not encourage Israeli companies to invest in Kurdistan as it is a geopolitically sensitive area. The situation in Iraq is still precarious, Kurdistan is in a conflict with Turkey and while maintaining relations with neighboring country Iran.