EghtesadOnline: Iran’s agricultural exports in the first half of the current fiscal year (March 20-Sept. 21) increased by 12.2% despite the coronavirus outbreak, says an official with the Islamic Republic of Iran's Customs Administration.
“Farming products exported in H1 were worth $2.57 billion, showing an over 12% rise compared with the same period of last year,” Mehrdad Jamal Orounaqi, the deputy head of IRICA, said, adding that these goods were over 3.7 million tons in terms of weight, Fars News Agency reported.
The official added that the volume of exported goods shows a 24.4% increase compared to the same period of last year.
Pistachio, tomato, apple, potato and peach were the top exported products in H1.
Pistachio topped the list of exports with 47,000 tons worth $304 million, indicating a 143% growth in weight and a 101% rise in value, the official said.
Orounaqi said the main importers of Iran’s agricultural products during the period under review were Iraq, the UAE, Afghanistan and China.
Fiscal 2019-20 Exports at $5.8b
Data released by the Agriculture Ministry show Iran exported 7.1 million tons of agricultural and food products worth over $5.82 billion in the last fiscal year that ended on March 19, 2020, to register a 2.34% rise in tonnage and 8.93% decline in value compared to the year before.
In-shell pistachio (fresh and dried) topped the list of exports in terms of value, as the country exported $724.2 million worth of the crop during the period.
Apple was the second major exported agricultural product in terms of value with $362.27 million followed by tomatoes with $259.21 million, unshelled pistachios with $240.58 million and watermelon with $175.97 million.
In term of tonnage, watermelons topped the list with 748,090 tons, followed by apples with 740,220 tons, tomatoes with 572,940 tons, potatoes with 480,440 tons and onions and shallot with 394,990 tons.
Horticultural products accounted for 1.95 million tons worth $2.72 billion of total exports, up 30.03% and 19.72% in tonnage and value respectively year-on-year. Exports of agronomical products stood at 4.41 million tons worth $2.09 billion, down 5.2% and 20.42% in tonnage and value respectively YOY.
Exports of livestock and poultry products stood at 586,400 tons worth $718.87 million, down 7.01% and 34.05% in tonnage and value respectively YOY.
The fisheries sector exported 126,590 tons worth $249.3 million, up 4.58% in tonnage and down 25.21% in value YOY.
Exports from the forest and rangeland sector hit 19,080 tons worth $31.2 million, down 29.45% and 46.19% in tonnage and value respectively YOY.
The veterinary sector’s exports amounted to 350 tons worth $2.31 million, up 16.23% in tonnage and down 27.68% in value YOY.
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 expanded by 3% during the fiscal 2019-20, while the overall Iranian economy experienced a -7% contraction.
SCI noted that GDP shrank by -0.6%, excluding oil production.
The sectors of "industries and mines", and "services" registered a respective contraction of 14.7% and 0.3%.
The significant boost in agricultural production is largely because of abundant rainfall at the beginning of the year, which led to a higher yield.
“Agricultural yields are expected to improve by 3 million tons, thanks to the current good rainfall year,” says Esmaeil Esfandiyarpour, an official with Agriculture Ministry.
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 for long with water shortages, drought and extended dry seasons since most of their farms are rain-fed.
“Iran’s output of agricultural products is expected to reach 128 million tons by the end of the current fiscal year [March 2021],” says Shahrokh Shajari, director general of Agriculture Ministry's Export Promotion Bureau.
According to Agriculture Minister Kazem Khavazi, over 4.3 million farmers in Iran produce more than of 124 million tons of agricultural products per year on more than 18.5 million hectares.
Agronomical products, he added, account for over 83.5 million tons of the total volume.
According to the minister, Iran possesses 14.3 million hectares of forests, 84 million hectares of pastures, 2.7 million hectares of woodland and 32.6 million hectares of deserts.
Track Record of Rouhani Gov't
Expounding on the government's track record since President Hassan Rouhani first took office in August 2013, the minister recently said
Agricultural production has increased from 97 million tons in 2013 to 125 million tons in the fiscal 2019-20 to register a 28.86% rise, according to the minister.
“It is estimated that the figure will reach 130 million tons by the end of the current Iranian year [in March 2021],” Khavazi was quoted as saying by IRNA.
The official noted that the government’s achievements over the last seven years in the agriculture sector have been aplenty.
“When the Rouhani Administration took office in August 2013, each cubic meter of water yielded around 920 grams of agricultural products. The figure presently stands at 1,450 grams, which shows a significant improvement in water efficiency,” he said.
“Farms equipped with modern irrigation systems increased from 1.2 million hectares to 2.4 million hectares and irrigation efficiency has increased from 35% to 45% over the course of the seven years.”
According to the minister, agronomical harvest stood at 83 million tons and horticultural production at 24 million tons last year, which show a 22.06% and 50% increase respectively compared with 2013.
Livestock production increased to 16 million tons last year, showing a 384% surge over the period.
Milk production, the minister said, saw a 34.14% growth over the period under review to reach 11 million tons last year, which figure the government plans to maintain in the current year and the next.
“Seafood production experienced a 44.44% rise to stand at 1.3 million tons last year, from 900,000 tons in 2013. The figure is estimated to rise to 1.5 million tons by the end of the current year in March 2021. Shrimp production has increased from 12,000 tons to 46,000 tons and caviar production from 1 ton to 10 tons,” he said.
Khavazi noted that last year, 13.7 million tons of wheat were produced in Iran while the figure stood at 9.3 million tons seven years ago.
Honey production grew from 75,000 tons in 2013 to 112,000 tons last year to indicate a 49.33% rise.
In the field of agro mechanization, said Khavazi, the government has provided 112,000 tractors and more than 10,000 combine harvesters.
There are 18,500 hectares of greenhouses spread across the country while there were only 8,800 hectares of such facilities when Rouhani first took office.
Kambiz Bazargan, a deputy agriculture minister and head of the Agriculture Research, Education and Extension Organization, says certified seed production reached 426,000 tons last year while in 2013 some 330,000 tons of these seeds were domestically produced.
“Much work needs to be done in the field of vegetable oil production as, today, only 16% of our domestic demand are being met domestically. Though support has been granted to oilseed cultivation in the country, the figure has only improved by 4% from 2013, when we met 12% of the domestic market.”
The official said, at present, per capita oil consumption in Iran stands at 19 kilograms, which is way above the global average of 12 kilograms, adding that this needs to be lowered by encouraging Iranians to consume healthier and less fatty foods.
Bazargan also said that last year Iranian farmers underwent 126 minutes of education and training on average, while in 2013 only 32 minutes of training were provided by the government.