EghtesadOnline: Domestic red meat consumption has plunged since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on livestock breeders and nomadic livelihood.
An estimated 48,900 tons of red meat was produced in official abattoirs in the month ending March 20 up 35% compared with the similar month last year.
The Statistical Center of Iran's in a report shows beef accounted for 27,200 tons or 55.6% of the total production, indicating a year-on-year increase of 49%.
Moreover, 17,700 tons of lamb (up 23%), 3,000 tons of goat meat (up 15%) and one ton of other types of livestock were produced in the month, accounting for 36.2%, 6.1% and 2.1% of the total output, respectively.
Meat output was 441,100 tons in the last fiscal (March 2020-21), indicating a 37% growth compared with the year before.
Decline in red meat consumption has inflicted the most damage on nomads dependent largely on animal husbandry, the Nomadic Affairs Organization affiliated to the Agriculture Ministry said recently.
“Restrictions on social gatherings due to the pandemic have cancelled wedding, funeral and religious ceremonies. Most restaurants have either closed or have few customers and [food] delivery requests that have cut red meat consumption,” Shahpour A’layi Moghaddam was quoted by Mehr News Agency as saying.
Meanwhile, red meat has disappeared from many a household’s basket of food and replaced with cheaper food amid exorbitant prices.
The official noted that due to the difficult conditions nomadic tribes have an oversupply of livestock which is threatening their livelihoods.
According to a former head of the Nomadic Affairs Organization, Karamali Qandali, nomads own more than 9.5 million heads of livestock and produce 190,000 tons of red meat a year, which meet 25% of domestic demand.
There are 213,000 nomadic households in Iran or 1.2 million of Iran’s total population.
Nomadic production of red meat accounts for about a quarter of Iran’s total output. According to deputy agriculture minister for livestock affairs, Morteza Rezaei, up to 160,000 tons of red meat is imported annually.
Falling demand and the imbalance between production costs and selling prices have created economic hardships for livestock farmers, says Hossein Nemati, head of the Union of Iran Animal Farmers.
“Constant increase in prices of livestock and poultry feed are overburdening livestock breeders. Under the circumstances, the limited pastures’ forage output due to drought has made production harder and less sustainable.
“Farmers of light-weight and native livestock breeds have fallen victim to the current situation in particular because their share from government-subsidized feed is small and they rely on pastures for a significant part of their animal feed,” he was quoted as saying by ILNA.
Saddled with mounting economic problems, farmers opt for depopulating their lightweight or heavyweight livestock or broiders, he said.
Nemati believes that the supply of alternative animal feed ingredients such as hay might change farmers’ culling decisions “but they will need financial assistance like cheap loans. Depopulating livestock will be a major threat to meat supply after all.”
In related news and on the order of the National Coronavirus Headquarters, traveling of nomads from their winter to summer settlements has to be only via vehicles this year to prevent tribes from contacting the Covid-19 virus, head of the Nomad Affairs Organization said.
“This will cost the government 650 billion rials [more than $2.7 million],” Shahpour A’layi was quoted by Mehr News Agency as saying. There are around 213,000 households in the nomad community.
The itinerant tribes, said A’layi, have close to 21 million light and 1.2 million heavy livestock. “Only five cases of Covid-19 were reported among nomads since the outbreak of the pandemic more than a year ago.”