EghtesadOnline: The agriculture sector grew by 1% during the first nine months of the current Iranian year (March 21-Dec. 21, 2017), experiencing the lowest growth over the past six years, based on the latest figures released by the Statistical Center of Iran.
According to SCI, the agro sector growth in the fiscal 2012-13 stood at 3%. The figure fell 0.2% to 2.8% in the following year before rebounding to 4.7% in 2014-15. In the following two years, growth fell to 4% in 2015-16 and declined to 3.3% in 2016-17, the Persian daily Shahrvand reported.
SCI has yet to release growth estimates for the entire current fiscal year (ending March 20).
Figures by the Central Bank of Iran show more or less the same trend, yet with different growth rates of 4.7% for the fiscal 2012-13, 5.5% for 2013-14, 5.4% for 2014-15, 4.6% for 2015-16 and 4.2% for 2016-17. CBI estimates agro growth in 2017-18 to stand at 3.8%, Financial Tribune reported.
The decline in growth, according to Shahrvand, is related to the acute water crisis facing the country.
“Amid low precipitation and water shortage, the government says it is going to place restrictions on the cultivation of crops in areas where underground water resources are at alarming levels,” Agriculture Minister Mahmoud Hojjati said.
“In other areas such as Khuzestan and Mazandaran provinces, farmers can use low-depth wells to deal with the situation for the time being,” he was quoted as saying by IRNA.
Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian said water shortage will negatively impact the spring cultivation of agricultural products.
The head of Mazandaran Agricultural Jihad Organization said in February that there are serious concerns regarding problems farmers are likely to face during rice cultivation, which takes place in February and March.
Delavar Heydarpour added that water reserves behind the province’s dams have decreased by an average of 40% since the beginning of the current year compared with the similar period of last year.
“Our suggestion is that farmers in the cities of Sari, Miandoroud, Behshahr, Galugah and parts of Jouybar and Simorgh avoid rice cultivation and opt for the cultivation of oilseeds, or fodder instead,” he was quoted as saying.
Although water scarcity is one of the biggest environmental challenges facing Iran, inefficient management of the valuable resource is largely to blame for a crisis that has emerged over the years, the director of Iran Water Industry Federation said.
“The revenue earned from the sale and export of many types of crops does not equal the value of water used for irrigation,” Abdolreza Foroughi added.
Reportedly, about 92% of the country’s water resources are used up by unsustainable and wasteful farming practices.
The country’s nearly two-decade struggle with drought, combined with high consumption and waste, has caused renewable water resources to drop under 120 billion cubic meters. However, by some accounts, that figure is closer to 88 bcm.
Located in one of the world’s most water-stressed regions, Iran’s average precipitation rate has been lower than the global average for at least 10 years. Some 37 million Iranians are said to be living in water-stressed regions.