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Iraq to allow some rice planting after earlier ban

BAGHDAD, June 27 (Reuters) - Iraq will allow farmers to plant no more than 12,500 square kilometres (4,826 sq miles) of rice this season, the government said on Wednesday, in an apparent partial reversal of an earlier water conservation policy.

Earlier in June, the government said it was banning farmers from planting rice and other water-intensive crops in the face of increasing water shortages and diminishing river flows because of drought.

At a meeting of the National High Committee for Water chaired by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the panel decided farmers would not be able to plant more than 5,000 donhums, of which 3,500 would be in Najaf province and 1,500 in Diwaniya.

One Iraqi donhum is equal to 2,500 square metres. Iraq planted 100,000 donhums of rice last season

The effects of drought in Iraq are further complicated by Turkey's plan to fill a huge dam on the Tigris, a project already begun but paused after complaints from Iraq.

About 70 percent of Iraq's water resources flow from neighbouring countries, with the Tigris and Euphrates rivers - which run through Turkey - particularly important.

Abadi has said the government plans to provide water to farmers, especially for Iraq's strategic wheat crop, but that it would reduce plots of land reserved for planting rice and other crops that consume a lot of water. Iraq imports the bulk of its rice needs, however. (Reporting by Moayed Kenany; writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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