EghtesadOnline: More than 2.5 million tons of agrifood products worth $1.95 million were exported from Iran during the first five months of the current Iranian year (March 21-Aug. 22).
“This accounts for 10.97% of Iran’s total non-oil exports during the period,” Abdolmehdi Bakhshandeh, deputy agriculture minister for planning and economic affairs, added.
“Iran’s main export destinations were Iraq, Afghanistan, the UAE, Pakistan, Russia, India, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Germany and some East Asian countries,” he was quoted as saying by Young Journalists Club.
The official noted that gourd with 739,000 tons, fresh and processed tomatoes with 319,000 tons, onions and shallot with 110,000 tons, apples with 61,000 tons and dates with 20,000 tons were the main exported agricultural products in terms of weight, according to Financial Tribune.
“Dairy products with $250 million, gourd vegetables with $233 million, fresh and processed tomatoes with $190 million and pistachio with $178 million were the main exported products in terms of value,” he added.
Bakhshandeh noted that agricultural products with 1.82 million tons worth $908 million had the largest share in terms of weight and value in exports.
“The lion’s share of exports in agricultural products pertained to vegetables with 813,000 tons worth $435 million,” he said.
The second subcategory with the largest share in agrifood exports was horticultural products with 375,000 tons worth $614 million.
The main exported products here, according to Bakhshandeh, were pistachios with 20,000 tons worth $178 million, saffron with 74 tons worth $78 million, dates with 56,000 tons worth $48 million, grapes with 31,000 tons worth $41 million and apples with 61,000 tons worth $36 million.
The third subcategory with the biggest share in Iran’s agrifood exports was livestock products with 197,000 tons worth $250 million tons.
“The main exported goods in this subcategory were 33,000 tons of cheese and dried whey worth $67 million, 42,000 tons of milk and cream worth $56 million, 22,000 tons of ice-cream worth $56 million, 94,000 tons of yoghurt worth $55 million. Also, 17,000 tons of eggs and 2,000 tons of Iranian tea worth $19 million and $2 million respectively were exported during the period,” Bakhshandeh said
The subcategories of fisheries with 39,000 tons, forests and ranges with 6,000 tons and veterinary medicine with 70 tons had a $71 million, $10 million and $1 million share in the country’s agrifood exports.
The deputy minister noted that during the same five-month period under review, 10.04 million tons of agrifood products worth more than $5.62 million were imported into Iran, accounting for 31.71% of Iran’s total non-oil imports over March-August 2019.
The main imported products in terms of weight, said the official, were field corn with 3.59 million tons, soybeans and barley with 1.14 million tons each, soy meal with 929,000 tons, semi- or wholly-milled rice with 893,000 tons while in terms of value these included semi- or wholly-milled rice worth $951 million, field corn worth $892 million, soybeans worth $494 million, oilcake worth $411 million and sunflower seeds worth $306 million.
Based on the above figures, Iran registered a $3.67 billion trade deficit in agrifood trade during the five-month period.
Mohammad Ali Tahmasebi, deputy agriculture minister for horticultural affairs, provided the media with a conflicting report on the volume of agricultural exports earlier this month, saying more than $5 billion worth of agricultural products had been exported from Iran since the beginning of the current Iranian year (March 21), around 50% of which, amounting to over $2.5 billion, were orchard crops.
Financial Tribune’s calls to Tahmasebi's office met with no response.
The data provided by Bakhshandeh is more reliable as he has cited the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs administration's statistics.
85% of Agricultural Demand Met Domestically
Agriculture Minister Mahmoud Hojjati says Iran meets 85% of its agricultural demand domestically and the remaining 15% are provided through imports.
According to the minister, $80 billion worth of agricultural products are produced in Iran every year, $75 billion of which are consumed domestically.
Director General of the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade's Food, Medicine and Toiletries Industries Department Mehdi Sadeqi Niyaraki says 95% of Iran’s food industry are owned by the private sector, noting that the sector accounts for 15% of the country’s industrial employment.
Iran ranks among the top 10 producers of many horticultural products, including but not limited to pistachios, dates, apples, cherries, pomegranates and grapes, in the world.
Agricultural Boost to GDP
The solid increase in agricultural production has been the main driver of economic growth registered in the first quarter of the current Iranian year.
Estimates indicate that with 6.5%, the agriculture sector saw the highest growth among Iran's economic sectors in Q1. The rate for last year's corresponding period stood at 0.3%.
According to Central Bank of Iran's Governor Abdolnasser Hammati, growth has returned to Iran's non-oil sector.
"The first three months of the year 98 [current Iranian year that started on March 21], saw the non-oil sector, which is the productive sector of the economy, grow 0.4% compared with the corresponding period of 97 [last Iranian year]," the CBI chief wrote in a piece published on the central bank's website.
The significant boost in agricultural production owes largely to abundant rainfall at the beginning of the year, which led to increased crop yields.