EghtesadOnline: Iran’s agricultural output is expected to reach 128 million tons by the end of the current fiscal year (March 2021), says Shahrokh Shajari, director general of the Agriculture Ministry's Export Expansion Bureau.
“Agricultural yields are expected to improve by 3 million tons, thanks to the good rainfall in the current year,” says Esmaeil Esfandiyarpour, another Agriculture Ministry official, Mizan Online reported.
Unlike last year, when downpours and floods caused significant damage 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), he told the Persian-language daily Iran.
Mojtaba Palouj, a member of Agricultural Planning, Economic and Rural Development Research Institute, said, “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 ground water reservoirs for years to come.”
“Since the beginning of the current water year (Sept. 23, 2019) almost 302 millimeters of rain fell in Iran,” says Ahmadali Keykhah, the chairman of Majlis Agriculture Commission.
“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 increase in water stored in dams. Last year’s rainfalls were untimely and scattered, damaging 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 in the region of 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 that Iran's water scarcity will 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.
This is while agriculture was the only sector that experienced growth in the last Iranian year (March 2019-20).
According to the Statistical Center of Iran, the sector saw 3% expansion during the period. This is while the overall economy shrank by 7%. The sectors of "industries and mines" and ""services" saw respective contractions of 14.7% and 0.3%.
The significant boost in agricultural production owes largely to abundant rainfall at the beginning of the year, which led to increased crop yields.
“Ninety-five percent of food demand in Iran are met by domestic production,” Mehdi Karimi-Tafreshi, a board member of the House of Industry, Mine and Trade of Iran, was quoted as saying by ILNA.
“About 130 million tons of food are produced by local companies annually. Unlike what most people think, it is the development and completion of the production chain that generate added value rather than production of raw materials by mainstream industries. Statistics show food production constitutes over 10% of the added value of the industrial sector. Much of the industries are in recession as we speak, however a significant share of Iran's gross domestic product comes from food industries.”
Karimi-Tafreshi noted that given the slower pace of population growth and the decline in consumers’ buying power, the development of food industries would be contingent upon their presence in regional markets.
“Russia, Iraq and Oman are among Iran’s key destinations for food exports,” he added.
The official noted that estimates put the overall turnover of food industries in Iran at around $100 billion.
“The food industry is the biggest in terms of employment, added value and job creation rate. Out of the country’s 13,000 industrial workshops, 2,500 are dedicated to food production. It accounts for 16.8% of total employment,” he said.