EghtesadOnline: Iran exported 679,510 tons of agricultural and food products worth about $336 million during the month to April 19 to register a 25.85% rise in tonnage and a 9.13% decline in value compared with last year’s corresponding period, the Agriculture Ministry reported.
Tomatoes topped the list of exports in terms of value, as the country exported $37.94 million worth of the crop during the month.
Apple was the second major exported agricultural product in terms of value with $28.56 million followed by watermelon with $24.51 million, tomato paste with $14.12 million and oranges with $10.55 million.
In term of tonnage, watermelons topped the list with 117,260 tons, followed by tomatoes with 84,000 tons, apples with 76,070 tons, oranges with 34,130 tons and cucumbers with 21,200 tons.
Agronomical products accounted for 447,510 tons worth $154.88 million of total exports, up 7.83% in tonnage and down 20.92% in value year-on-year. Exports of horticultural products stood at 169,500 tons worth $112.61 million, up 119.29% and 6.79% in tonnage and value respectively YOY.
Livestock and poultry exports stood at 55,270 tons worth $55.3 million, up 36.36% in tonnage and down 0.82% in value YOY.
The fisheries sector exported 6,340 tons worth $11.87 million, up 3.35% and 3.25% in tonnage and value respectively YOY.
Exports from the forest and rangeland sector hit 880 tons worth $1.25 million, down 8.88% in tonnage and up 12.72% in value YOY.
10% Decline in Import Value
Imports during the same period stood at 2.07 million tons worth $831.18 million, indicating a 33.64% growth in tonnage but a 10.4% decrease in value year-on-year.
Wheat had the biggest share in total imports in terms of value with $190.67 million, followed by soymeal with $106.88 million, field corn with $104.69 million, semi-polished and polished rice with $89.06 million and soybean with $79.05 million.
In terms of tonnage, wheat topped imports with 692,420 tons, followed by field corn with 430,220 tons, soymeal with 269,110 tons, soybean with 178,990 tons and semi-polished and polished rice with 104,280 tons.
Agronomical products accounted for 2 million tons worth $712.48 million of total imports, up 39.67% and 8.24% in tonnage and value respectively YOY.
Horticultural products stood at 61,190 tons worth $65.2 million, down 28.66% and 20.91% in tonnage and value respectively YOY.
Imports of livestock and poultry products hit 11,120 tons worth $47.95 million, down 66.87% and 73.39% in tonnage and value respectively YOY.
The veterinary sector imported 20 tons worth $2.83 million, down 73.84% in tonnage and up 30.35% in value YOY.
Imports by the fisheries sector amounted to 1,080 tons worth $1.9 million, up 1,635.44% and 22.97% in tonnage and value respectively YOY.
Imports from the forest and rangeland sector totaled 620 tons worth $820,000, down 3.52% and 73.16% in tonnage and value respectively YOY.
The export and import sums indicate that Iran recorded a trade deficit of 1.39 million tons in tonnage and $495.26 million in value during the month in review.
Abundant Rainfalls Boost Yields
Agricultural yields are expected to improve by 3 million tons thanks to the current good rainfall year. Unlike last year, when downpours and floods caused significant damages to farmers, the increased precipitation received in arid and semi-arid provinces is expected to lead to a bumper harvest this year (started March 20).
Out of nearly 18 million hectares of Iran's farmlands, 12 million hectares are rain-fed. The impact of rainfalls is more significant in arid areas in the central, southern, eastern and southeastern regions struggling with water shortages, drought and extended dry seasons since most of their farms are rain-fed.
“Precipitation this year has decreased by 5% compared with last year but improved 32% over the long-term average,” Esmaeil Esfandiyarpour, an official with Agriculture Ministry, told the Persian-language daily Iran.
Mojtaba Palouj, a member of Agricultural Planning, Economic and Rural Development Research Institute, says, “An estimated increase of 3 million tons of agricultural products is expected in crops such as wheat, barley, colza and oilseeds. However, we are not willing to see water consumption increase excessively. Watershed management, i.e. the conservation of soil, plant and water resources of a catchment, while benefiting humanity, will be pursued this year. Plans are to strengthen groundwater reservoirs for years to come.”
Noting that the rural economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, the official said, “Farming and husbandry account for over 90% of villagers’ income. Previous years’ droughts made orchards, groundwater wells and qanats [gently sloping underground channel to transport water from an aquifer or water well to surface for irrigation and drinking] go dry and increased mortality of livestock. Farmers turned to temporary jobs.”
Since the beginning of the current water year (started Sept. 23, 2019) almost 302 millimeters of rain fell in Iran, Ahmadali Keykhah, the chairman of Majlis Agriculture Commission, said.
“The significant point in the current year’s precipitation is its proportionate spatial distribution, particularly in dry areas. It has not only boosted agriculture, but also led to a considerable water increase in dams. Last year’s rainfalls were untimely and scattered, which damaged the agriculture sector,” he said.
Iran has been battling drought for decades because of declining rainfall, rising temperatures, old and inefficient farming practices, excessive consumption in metropolises and poor water management.
Since the 1970s, the use of groundwater increased fourfold and the average decline in groundwater tables has been around 50 centimeters per annum.
Despite the higher precipitation, people and authorities are concerned about water shortages, as many regions across the country are struggling with chronic water shortages that now resemble a crisis.
Experts predict Iran's water scarcity to hit crisis level by 2025, when available renewable water will be less than 1,000 cubic meters per capita, down from 2,000 cubic meters in 1950.