EghtesadOnline: Rice production has exceeded 2.6 million tons this year, showing a rise of 13-18% compared with last year’s output, according to the secretary of Iran Rice Association.
“Annual domestic demand for rice stands at around 3 million tons and this year’s increased production means there will be less imports,” Jamil Alizadeh Shayeq was also quoted as saying by IRNA.
The difference between domestic production and demand is imported from Pakistan, Thailand, India, the UAE, Turkey and Iraq.
The official noted that over 90% of Iran’s rice cultivation take place in the two northern provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran, and the remaining 10% are mostly grown in Isfahan, Ilam, Kurdestan and Khuzestan, according to Financial Tribune.
Based on the latest figures, land under rice cultivation in Iran amounts to 620,000 hectares, 520,000 hectares of which are located in the northern Gilan, Mazandaran and Golestan provinces.
Agricultural and environment experts have been urging the government for years to restrict rice farming to the water-rich provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran, which are home to the majority of Iran’s paddy fields, and to ban the cultivation of the staple Iranian crop in the rest of the country.
Apart from the two northern provinces, rice is currently cultivated in Khuzestan, Isfahan, Fars, Kohgilouyeh-Boyerahmad, Chaharmahal-Bakhtiari, Ilam, Qazvin, Lorestan, Zanjan, Sistan-Baluchestan, Kurdestan, Ardabil, East Azarbaijan and North Khorasan provinces. This is while most of these provinces are facing an acute water shortage.
The water crisis in Iran has exacerbated to such an extent that agricultural officials have expressed concerns regarding rice farming even in northern Iran where precipitation levels are relatively higher.
In February, Agriculture Minister Mahmoud Hijjati said that amid low precipitation and water shortage, the government will restrict the cultivation of crops in areas where underground water resources have declined to alarming levels.
Later in June, the Cabinet decided to impose bans on rice cultivation in a phased manner in all Iranian provinces, except Gilan and Mazandaran.
"Rice cultivation will first be restricted for three years, as farmers will receive no facilities or support from the government in provinces other than Gilan and Mazandaran during this period,” Alimorad Akbari, deputy agriculture minister for water and soil affairs, was quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.
After the three years, there will be an all-out ban on rice cultivation, except in Gilan and Mazandaran.
Akbari explained that Iran is an arid country and the rise and fall in precipitation levels are a characteristic of arid regions.
“We are facing climate change in Iran and therefore need to adopt a long-term vision to plan out cultivation patterns,” he said.
Every year and during the rice harvest season, the government bans rice imports in support of local farmers and domestic production.