EghtesadOnline: The Agriculture Ministry has temporarily lifted restrictions on rice cultivation in the country after it had announced plans to gradually limit and ultimately ban the production of this staple crop in all provinces, except the provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran, amid fears of drought.
“All provinces that enjoy bountiful water resources due to the recent high levels of precipitation and those with favorable weather conditions and enough raw material [seeds, fertilizer, etc.] can engage in rice cultivation this year. These provinces have also been allowed to dedicate more land to this cultivation,” Jamil Alizadeh Shayeq, the head of Iran Rice Association, was quoted as saying by Young Journalists Club.
The official believes that the imposition of restrictions on rice cultivation was “irrational” from the outset.
The restrictions were first proposed in the summer of 2018 by the Committee for Adaptability to Water Shortage. It was approved by the Cabinet and conveyed to provinces for implementation in June 2019.
“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,” Shayeq said.
Deputy Agriculture Minister Alimorad Akbari said the Agriculture Ministry will introduce alternative crops for cultivation in other provinces instead of rice, the abidance by which will be obligatory, Mehr News Agency reported.
The measure, he explained, was being undertaken because of water shortage facing the country.
Agricultural and environment experts have been urging the government for years to restrict rice farming to water-rich provinces and to ban its cultivation in the rest of the country.
Last year, former agriculture minister, Mahmoud Hojjati, said that amid low precipitation and water shortage, the government was going to place restrictions on the cultivation of crops in areas where underground water resources have reached alarming levels.
Later, the Cabinet verified the restrictions.
"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,” Akbari said.
After three years, there will be an all-out ban on rice cultivation, except in Gilan and Mazandaran.
The official explained that Iran is an arid country and the rise and fall in precipitation levels are a characteristic of dry regions.
“We are facing climate change in Iran and therefore need to adopt a long-term vision to plan out cultivation patterns,” he said.
A total of 2.9 million tons of rice were produced in Iran in the last Iranian year (March 2019-20), registering a 45% increase compared with the previous year, according to director general of the Agriculture Ministry’s Grains and Essential Goods Bureau.
“This increase in rice output owes to the favorable weather and heavy precipitations during February and March of 2019, because of which land under rice cultivation increased by 38% to reach around 834,000 hectares,” Faranak Aziz-Karimi was quoted as saying by IRNA.
Latest figures released by the Statistical Center of Iran show per capita rice consumption in the country stands at 35 kilograms.
"The harvest sufficiently meets domestic demand," the official said.
The northern Gilan and Mazandaran provinces account for 71% of Iran’s rice production, according to figures released in a recent report published by the Statistical Center of Iran.
The report shows Mazandaran accounts for 38% and Gilan for 33% of the country’s overall rice production.
The two provinces are followed by Khuzestan with 11% and Fars and Golestan with 4% each. The remaining 10% are cultivated in other Iranian provinces.
The report also shows that during the fiscal 2018-19, more than 1.96 million tons of rice were produced in Iran and around 1.65 million tons were imported.
Iranian households consumed more than 1.33 million tons of domestically produced rice and 1.3 million tons of imported rice during the period.
The country has been importing the difference between domestic production and demand in recent years from the UAE, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkey and Iraq.
West Asian nations led by Iran have also placed orders for basmati rice, but traders are likely to miss the crucial Ramadan period, April 25-May 24, as it takes 40-45 days to ship the consignments, Mumbai-based Indian daily The Economic Times reported on Thursday.