EghtesadOnline: The import of tropical fruits to Iran cost as much as $500 million annually, Mohammad-Mehdi Boroumandi, an official with Agriculture Ministry, said.
Referring to the favorable climatic conditions of the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan and its growth potential for tropical fruits, the official said, “We’re seeking to reach self-sufficiency in the production of tropical fruits through the support of farmers and expansion of orchards.”
Banana accounts for the highest volume of tropical fruits imported into Iran, IRNA reported.
A total of 92,947 tons of bananas were produced on 4,838 hectares during the last Iranian year (March 2019-20), which were enough to meet 20% of domestic demand for this tropical fruit, according to Boroumandi.
“Domestic demand for bananas stands at 550,000 tons annually, of which 450,000 tons are supplied through imports and 100,000 tons via local production,” he said.
According to the data of Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, last year’s banana imports hovered around 457,225 tons worth $308 million. The provinces of Sistan-Baluchestan, Hormozgan, Kerman, Fars and Bushehr are the producers of banana in Iran.
The southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan accounts for 99.8% of the country’s banana output.
“Sistan-Baluchestan Province has the largest area under banana cultivation with 4,835 hectares. A total of 22.3 hectares of plantations in Kerman, 12 hectares in Fars, 10 hectares in Hormozgan and 2.3 hectares in Bushehr have been dedicated to banana cultivation,” said Zahra Jalili-Moqaddam, the director general of the Agriculture Ministry’s Tropical and Subtropical Fruits Affairs Bureau.
More than 60,000 tons of bananas have been harvested in Sistan-Baluchestan Province so far this year (started March 20), Ardeshir Shahraki, a local official, said recently.
“There are close to 5,000 hectares of banana plantations in Sistan-Baluchestan, more than 3,000 hectares of which currently bear fruit. The province is Iran’s banana production hub,” he said.
“Chabahar, Konarak and Sarbaz counties account for the lion’s share of the province’s banana yield,” he said.
Mohammad Ali Tahmasebi, deputy agriculture minister for horticultural affairs, told Mehr News Agency that the government plans to expand Sistan-Baluchestan’s banana plantations by 2,000 hectares in cooperation with the private sector.
“Modern technology will be used in new plantations to increase yield and quality,” he said.
Sistan-Baluchestan’s tropical climate enables the province to produce mango, papaya, guava and coconut, besides banana, in addition to watermelon, pomegranate, olive and citrus fruits. Harvest takes place twice a year for most of these fruits.
Yet, harsh cold spell of late has caused losses to the tune of 7,500 billion rials ($30 million) to banana orchards of Zarabad District in Sistan-Baluchestan.
According to Masoud Latifian, another local official, over 1,000 hectares of banana orchards in Zarabad were ruined entirely.
“Just before the late frost event, visible wilt symptoms of banana trees were reported in some orchards due to the occurrence of Pratylenchus—a genus of nematodes known commonly as lesion nematodes and Fusarium—a large genus of filamentous fungi due to flash floods and inundations in the Iranian month ending Jan. 20,” he was quoted as saying by IRNA.
“Thirty hectares of guava orchards were also damaged completely by the extreme weather,” he added.
Latest data show a total of 308,970 tons of bananas worth $210.32 million were imported during the nine months to Dec. 20 compared with 334,252 tons worth $226.06 million in the whole of last year (March 2019-20), according to Rouhollah Latifi, the spokesperson of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration.
“Despite the ban on order registration for imports of bananas [since the Iranian month ending May 20], overall imports do not show a significant difference compared with last year. Main exporters of bananas to Iran include Turkey, India, Philippines, Ecuador, Pakistan, the UAE, Russia, and Vietnam. The main producers of banana in the world, i.e., Ecuador and Philippines, are not the top exporters of the fruit to Iran. Turkey ranks first among banana exporters to our country. Moreover, prices of bananas purchased from the neighboring country are cheaper than those imported from Ecuador,” he said.