EghtesadOnline: Non-oil exports from Arvand Free Commercial-Industrial Zone in southwest Iran exceeded $1.2 billion during the 11 months to Feb. 19.
According to Ali Mousavi, an official with Arvand Free Zone Organization, $938 million of the total sum were exported from Shalamcheh commercial border and Khorramshahr sea border terminals to Iraq. The figure shows a 23% rise compared with last year’s corresponding period.
Major commodities exported though the borders include fruits, vegetables, chemical products, steel products and construction materials, IRNA reported.
In addition, $93 million worth of non-oil goods were exported from Abadan Border Terminal to Persian Gulf littoral states and Europe to register a 91% growth year-on-year, according to Financial Tribune.
India, Kuwait and European countries were the major export destinations of commodities exported from Abadan, a majority of which included food products, dates, nuts, apparel, bitumen, petrochemical, metal and chemical products, as well as electrical and electronic products.
Referring to commodities exclusively produced in AFZ, Mousavi noted that $200 million worth of products were exported by AFZ to Iraq this year (March 2018-19), which shows a 20% increase YOY.
Reexports from the zone grew by 100% to $36 million during the 11-month period.
The Arvand zone is located on the northern tip of Persian Gulf and borders Khuzestan province and the major cities of Khorramshahr and Abadan. The zone is spread across 8,600 hectares and includes administrative, tourism and commercial areas.
Nearly 3,800 hectares are designated for warehousing and shipping. The port boasts the deep waters of Bahmanshir, Karun and Arvand rivers. Bordering Iraq and Kuwait, the free zone has excellent road, rail and air transit, which boosts its connectivity.
Iran is home to seven free trade zones, namely Kish, Qeshm, Chabahar, Anzali, Maku, Aras and Arvand, as well as 64 special economic zones.
Visa Waiver for Iraqis
Arvand Free Trade Zone recently resumed a visa-free regime for Iraqi travelers, which allows citizens of the neighboring country to visit Abadan, Khorramshahr and Minoo Island without the need to obtain visas, the head of Free Trade Zone Organization said.
"We expect the entry of up to 1,000 Iraqi visitors per day," Mana News quoted Ismail Zamani as saying recently.
Arvand FTZ abolished visa requirement for foreign travelers in December 2017. However, local authorities decided to halt the scheme in October, following a sharp drop in the value of national currency and "lack of suitable infrastructures".
Local authorities say they are working to enhance public transportation services in the FTZ, which reportedly posed the main problem for Iraqi visitors.
"Talks are also underway with the Iraqi government to ease Iraqis' entry to Iran," said Ali Mousavi, Arvand FTZ's deputy for business development.
Latest data show Iraqi tourists accounted for the highest number of foreigners who visited Iran during the seven months to Oct. 22.
A total of 1,926,310 Iraqis visited Iran in the seven-month period, followed by 989,836 Azerbaijani, 557,579 Afghans, 483,302 Turks and 159,728 Pakistanis.
This comes as the number of tourists from Iraq stood at 1,356,185 in the last Iranian year (March 2017-18) and 1,398,201 in the year before (March 2016-17).
Iraqi citizens have traditionally constituted a major share of total inbound tourists to Iran, but their main purpose of travel to the Islamic Republic has mostly been to visit religious and holy sites.
However, Iranian authorities have been increasingly focusing on expanding purposes for which Iraqis travel to Iran in recent months.