EghtesadOnline: Raisins are Iran’s third top non-oil export item after carpets and pistachios, the head of East Azarbaijan Agricultural Jihad Organization said.
Akbar Fathi added that East Azarbaijan Province exports 170,000 tons of raisins annually, according to Financial Tribune.
Iran produces between 150,000 and 170,000 tons of raisins per year, the Persian economic daily Donya-e-Eqtesad reported, adding that East Azarbaijan accounts for 70-80% of the output.
According to Younes Jaeleh, the head of Tabriz Chamber of Commerce, Iran produces 286,000 tons of grapes annually with East Azarbaijan Province having a 68,700-ton share.
“There are 43 grape processing and five grape concentrate production units in the northwestern province,” he said.
“The province’s raisins are exported to European and African countries, Iraq, the UAE and Russia.”
Fathi noted that East Azarbaijan has 18,000 hectares under grape cultivation.
Exports of raisins totaled 113,000 tons worth $152 million in the last Iranian year (March 2018-19) to post a 17% and 0.5% decline in tonnage and value respectively compared with the year before.
The UAE with $27 million, Iraq with $24 million and Turkey with $22 million were the top export destinations for Iranian raisins during the year.
Iraq with $26 million, the UAE with $23 million and Russia with $14 million were the top export destinations in the fiscal 2017-18.
A total of $1.5 billion worth of raisins were imported across the world in 2017.
Domestic raisins consumption amounts to 40,000 tons per year.
“Iran is the world's third biggest producer of raisins after the US and Turkey, and the eighth biggest producer of grapes,” Abbas Banazadeh, an agriculture expert, said.
Iran’s biggest export destination for grapes and raisins is Russia. Other main customers are some member countries of the European Union, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf littoral countries.
Grape Production in Jowzan Valley: Globally Important Agricultural Heritage
The traditional grape cultivation in Malayer County’s Jowzan Valley rural district, Hamedan Province, was formally recognized as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System in late 2018.
The announcement was made during a meeting in Rome of the GIAHS Scientific Advisory Group affiliated with the Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations.
“We, as the responsible body in Iran in this respect, sent the proposal for Jowzan Valley grapes to be designated as a GIAHS in early 2017. Around 90% of the grapes produced in Malayer are cultivated in the vineyards of this valley,” Ali Kianirad, the deputy head of Research Department with the Agricultural Planning, Economic and Rural Development Research Institute affiliated with the Agriculture Ministry, told Financial Tribune.
According to Davoud Habibi, an official with the Agriculture Ministry’s Horticulture Department, Hamedan Province has around 20,411 hectares of grape orchards that yield 350,000 tons of the fruit every year.
Some 58% of these vineyards are in Malayer, which produce more than 203,000 tons of grapes.
Jowzan Valley is made up of 17 villages and accounts for the lion’s share of Malayer’s grape production.
Hamedan is Iran’s fifth biggest grape producer after Fars, Qazvin, Khorasan Razavi and West Azarbaijan.
The grape and grape-based production system in Jowzan has a long history. Farmers have made grape cultivation possible in extreme cold conditions, thanks to unique techniques. They use traditional know-how and tools to produce more than 40 out of 130 grape varieties.
This, together with the higher yield per hectare, shows the unique skills of gardeners. Even the right sugar level makes the grapes and raisins of Jowzan Valley different from those of other parts of the country, FAO wrote on its website.
Over the years, the system has significantly improved the locals' living standards, while giving a boost to local tourism and rural economy.
GIAHS’s Manifold Benefits
In response to the global trends that undermine family farming and traditional agricultural systems in 2002, during the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations launched a Global Partnership Initiative on conservation and adaptive management of “Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems”.
Kianirad said GIAHS aims to safeguard and expand agricultural systems that have adapted themselves to the climatic conditions of specific regions, helped sustainable farming and maintained agricultural biodiversity.
GIAHS establishes long-term programs to support these systems.
“There are many benefits to being designated as a GIAHS. First and foremost, the product, the area and the specific farming methods will be brought into the limelight and introduced to the world. This promotes agricultural and rural tourism in the region, which is turning into a popular trend nowadays. This can further boost the local as well as the national economy," he said.
The official noted that the designation can help with the branding of grapes and raisins produced in Malayer.
"This can bring Iranian and foreign investors, as well as institutes, that invest in GIAHS such as FAO itself, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the Global Environment Facility to the region. This can transform the economic scene of Jowzan Valley and Malayer, and the world would know where to find some of the world’s finest grapes,” he said.
Kianirad said Iran’s Agriculture Ministry, in cooperation with locals, has prepared an action plan for the region.
"In it, the roles of all responsible bodies, public and private, in the conservation, sustenance and expansion of the newly-recognized system, required expenses and the planning, monitoring and supervision procedures are meticulously delineated," he concluded.