EghtesadOnline: The volume of agricultural waste in Iran is twice the global average. Currently, up to 30% of agro products go to waste in the country during the stages of pre-harvest, harvest, post-harvest and supply.
Old machinery used in this sector is the main culprit contributing to the wastage, IRNA reported.
Agriculture waste is said to cost Iran’s economy over $5 billion per annum.
According to Kambiz Abbasi, an official with the Ministry of Agriculture, between 25% and 30% of Iran’s agricultural machinery have been repaired or renovated since the beginning of Hassan Rouhani’s presidency in August 2013, Financial Tribune reported.
“Thanks to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, last year, renowned brands of rice planting machinery, heavy tractors, combines and orchard tractors have been imported,” he was quoted as saying by IRNA.
Most of the imports came from Germany, Italy, France, South Korea and Japan.
“The excessive use of seeds during the pre-harvest stage, using old technology to fight pest and diseases during the harvest stage and the inappropriate transport of agricultural goods in the chain of distribution, market and consumption are among other reasons,” vice chairman of Iran’s Agriculture Guild, Behrouz Bazli, said.
“Last year (March 2016-17), 14 million tons of wheat were produced, 10% (1-1.5 million tons) of which were wasted only because of machinery. This waste, considering the guaranteed purchase price, amounts to 20 trillion rials ($528 million).”
Bazli noted that poor management is another issue exacerbating the problem.
According to Food and Agricultural Organization, 1.3 billion tons of food, mainly fruit, vegetables, fish and grains, are wasted globally every year and Iran is responsible for 2.7% of it, equal to about 35 million tons of the total sum.
Iranians mostly waste bread, fruit, vegetables and rice.
There are two patterns of food waste throughout the world. In developing countries, food waste happens mostly between the harvest and processing stages while in developed countries, the retailing system and customers are the main culprits.
According to Abbasi, about 95% of Iran’s agricultural machinery need are met by domestic producers and the rest pertains to modern machinery used in rice paddy fields.
Experts say the canning industry is among the most important processing industries that can help minimize agricultural waste.
The canning industry is a strategic sector, originally set up to prevent food wastage and feed people in times of crisis such as war or earthquakes.
However, using canned food nowadays is not limited to the time of crisis. Currently, with the development of modern society and population growth, more and more people are using canned food and demand is growing.
Mohammad Javad Soroush, director of the Water and Soil Office at the Department of Environment, says poor management of agricultural waste is depriving Iran of the means to improve soil fertility.
He describes agricultural waste as an “important resource” whose value must be acknowledged by the Ministry of Agriculture.
This type of waste is often converted into organic fertilizer and energy in countries with advanced farming techniques, but this is not a common practice in Iran where even irrigation systems are outdated and wasteful.
“The vast extent of our soil lacks sufficient organic material, which can be redressed by using compost derived from agricultural waste,” he has been quoted as saying by ISNA.
According to Soroush, the sector produces around 170 million tons of waste every year, most of which can be reused as compost.
Agricultural waste management is based on the principles of four Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle and recover.
Waste disposal is only a last resort option in the developed world.