EghtesadOnline: A total of 106,000 tons of imported rice have undergone customs clearance since the beginning of the current Iranian year (March 20), according to the spokesman of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration.
“More than 114,000 tons of rice are waiting for the completion of clearance procedures in the customs terminals of Chabahar, Zahedan, Shahid Rajaee, Qeshm, Imam Khomeini, Bushehr and Mashhad,” Rouhollah Latifi was also quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.
The official noted that the rice consignments have been imported from India, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkey and the UAE.
A total of 2.9 million tons of rice were produced in the country during the last Iranian year (March 2019-20), registering a 45% increase compared with the previous year, according to the director general of the Agriculture Ministry’s Grains and Essential Goods Bureau.
“This increase in rice output is because of favorable weather and heavy precipitations during February and March of 2019, which increased land under rice cultivation by 38% to reach around 834,000 hectares,” Faranak Aziz Karimi also told IRNA.
Latest figures released by the Statistical Center of Iran show per capita rice consumption in the country stands at 35 kilograms.
The northern Gilan and Mazandaram provinces together account for 71% of Iran’s rice production, according to figures released in a recent SCI report.
The report shows Mazandaran accounts for 38% and Gilan for 33% of the country’s overall rice production. They are followed by Khuzestan with 11% and Fars and Golestan with 4% each. The remaining 10% is cultivated in other Iranian provinces.
The Agriculture Ministry has temporarily lifted restrictions on rice cultivation after it 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 adequate 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, is 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.