EghtesadOnline: Over 9.13 million tons of essential goods worth $4.67 billion were imported into Iran during the first half of the current Iranian year (March 21-Sept. 22), accounting for 56% and 21% of the total imports in terms of weight and value respectively.
According to the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, a total of 16.22 million tons of goods worth $22.18 billion were imported during the period. The figures show more than a 9% decline in weight and a 12% fall in value over last year’s similar period.
Corn, rice, oilseeds, pharmaceuticals, vegetable oils, red meat, soy meal, barley, fertilizers, sugar and wheat were the main essential goods imported in H1, according to Financial Tribune.
Imports of corn, oilseeds, red meat and barley increased in H1, the IRICA report said.
Rice, field corn and soybeans were among Iran's top imported items in the first half of the year. Some $964 million worth of rice accounting for more than 4% of total imports, $961 million worth of field corn accounting for more than 4% of total imports and $705 million worth of soybeans accounting for more than 3% of total imports were imported during the period.
Earlier last month, customs official Morteza Kebriyaei said procedures required for customs clearance of imports of essential items, including rice, vegetable oil, tea and raw materials needed by factories, are now carried out in less than 24 hours at Iran’s biggest container port, Shahid Rajaee Port in the southern Hormozgan Province.
Over 50% of imports, of which 80% are food and essential goods, enter the country via Shahid Rajaee Port, Mehr News Agency quoted Kebriyaei as saying.
> Customs Clearance Expedited
The IRICA report added that the customs clearance procedures for essential goods are now completed in under three days.
Demand for import registration of different items surged in April following the government's allocation of subsidized foreign currency to imports. Statistics show that imports saw a 69% rise in the Iranian month Ordibehesht (April 21-May 21) compared with the month before to hit $4.3 billion. This uptrend continued into the following month (May 22-June 21), posting a 4% increase and $4.5 billion worth of imports.
However, with the introduction of trade restriction policies on June 24, imports began a significant decline. In the Iranian months Tir (June 22-July 22) and Mordad (July 23-Aug. 22), imports fell by 12% and 5%, respectively.
Some experts believe constant changes in import formalities related to provision of foreign currency to customs clearance procedure and the resulting confusion are other reasons to blame for the slump in imports.
Despite the overall decline in imports, “the country is presently in a better state in terms of essential items compared to last year”, Foroud Asgari, director general of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, said in a meeting with First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri late last month.
“Imports of field corn has risen by 26%, oilseeds by 28%, red meat by 39% and barley by 51%. As we speak, the customs clearance process has improved to 4,700 trucks a day; on some days, it's 6,000,” he was quoted as saying by ILNA.
IRICA now allows local producers to clear up to 70% of their imports of raw materials and industrial machines before going through customs procedures and formalities.
One of the sharp criticisms leveled at the government in the past couple of months was about the large volume of unclaimed, imported goods left at customs terminals mostly due to the multitude of new regulations and the demand for importers, who had received the US dollar at the cheap rate of 42,000 rials, to pay the foreign exchange difference.
President of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture Masoud Khansari recently claimed that as many as seven million tons of goods had piled up at the country’s ports of entry, which is harmful to the economy since these goods cannot be distributed within a reasonable time.
The telling example was the shortage of diapers in the domestic market over the past few months. Had the raw materials of such products been delivered on the scheduled date, their price increase and shortage could have been avoided, according to a report by the Persian daily 'Iran'.
"The diaper market will go back to normal if the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration speeds up clearance procedures and the government allocates the required foreign exchange for importing raw materials at subsidized rates," Parvin Nabati, the director general of the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade’s Chemical and Cellulose Industries Bureau, said.
Director General of the Ports Division of the Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran Ravanbakhsh Behzadian said recently customs clearance process has been expedited at different ports across the country.
"For example, the volume of containers and essential goods piled up at Shahid Rajaee Port in the southern Hormozgan Province have decreased by 4% and 20% respectively in the past 15 days," IRNA quoted him as saying on Sept. 25.