By Army Spc. Darryl L. Montgomery
Special to American Forces Press Service
June 17, 2009 - After two years of planning and building, the Central Euphrates Farmers' Market here is open for business after a June 12 grand opening. "The fact that this market is here today demonstrates the cooperation of the Iraqi security forces and the coalition forces," said Army Brig. Gen. Jerry Lang, 34th Infantry Division deputy commanding general for support. "We hope this model of cooperation you have demonstrated here today will help us bring it to the rest of southern Iraq."
Sheik Khodaer Abdlhosaen, the market's director, thanked coalition forces for their efforts in helping to make the market a reality. "We have received a lot of help from the coalition forces," he said, "and for that, we are finally to the point that we are here for celebration."
The market has 20 outdoor stalls and 24 indoor stalls, from which farmers will sell their produce to wholesale buyers as well as directly to local retail customers. Revenue from stall rentals will cover the market's operating and maintenance cost, making the project completely self-sustaining.
The market has a cafeteria, a training room, rest rooms, a small kitchen, guard rooms and a rest area for drivers who deliver the goods for sale. The market's board of directors is half Sunni and half Shiite, and the market will employ former "Sons of Iraq' civilian security group members to serve as security guards.
"This market is more than just concrete, wood and metal," said Lisa Verdon, a State Department senior business advisor. "It is a manifestation of the dreams of thousands of farming families that make up the agricultural associations represented by the Central Euphrates Farmers' Market. We recognize turning your dream into a reality was not an easy task, but your commitment and dedication is what made this happen."
The market is built on Highway 1, which connects Basra with Baghdad and Mosul, and is projected to become Iraq's most significant growth corridor in the years ahead.
"The Central Euphrates Farmers' Market has the potential to be more than just a market place," Verdon said. "Your strategic location, strong leadership and infrastructure capacity means that the Central Euphrates Farmers' Market can be a profitable, progressive and sustainable agribusiness and an agricultural learning center of excellence.
"Your work has made your dreams a reality," she continued. "Your continued work can make a better life for thousands of families."
(Army Spc. Darryl L. Montgomery serves with the 172nd Infantry Brigade.)