EghtesadOnline: Drought is estimated to have inflicted losses worth $258.33 million on 34 million hectares of Iran’s nomadic pastures in the fiscal 2021-22, according to the Nomads Affairs Organization of Iran.
“This year, due to low precipitation levels and drought in our pastures and meadows, we are facing a shortage of fodder to feed the livestock. We initially proposed the export of one million head of livestock so that the revenues could be used to import fodder and animal feed, but the Agriculture Ministry has only agreed with half this amount,” Fazl Khorram, the CEO of Nomadic Cooperative Association for Itinerant Livestock Farmers, was recently quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.
Noting that the Agriculture Ministry has permitted the export of 500,000 head of livestock owned by Iranian nomadic tribes, he said there are currently 246,000 nomadic households in Iran who own a total of 22.4 million head of livestock, supplying between 25% and 30% of domestic demand for red meat.
Drought has inflicted 670 trillion rials ($2.7 billion) in losses on Iran’s agriculture sector since the beginning of the current crop year.
According to Mohammad Mousavi, an official with the Agriculture Ministry, assessments carried out over 11.2 million hectares of farming lands in 30 provinces show 43% of the total losses were attributed to the decline in production of agronomic crops, 26% to horticultural products, 13% to fisheries and livestock, and 11% to forage crops.
“In addition, 4% of the total damage are blamed on challenges created in water transportation infrastructures, pools, pipes, qanats and springs, while 3% of losses can be attributed to water supply complications and the animal feed used by nomads,” he was quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.
Noting that the precipitation rate in the current crop year has declined by 54% compared with last year and 41% compared with the long-time average, the official said that besides the decline in precipitation rate, the rise in heatwaves and evaporation as well as the inappropriate distribution of rainfalls has resulted in drought and its adverse consequences on the agriculture sector.
“Reports by Iran Meteorological Organization say that 92% of the country have been affected by drought at different levels, such that 20% of the country’s area are facing extreme drought, 28% severe drought, 25% moderate drought and 19% of the country are on the verge of becoming abnormally dry. Only 8% of the country are having normal conditions,” he added.
Mousavi stressed that the emergency plan put together by the Agriculture Ministry underlines the management of strategic reserves, animal feed and essential goods in proportion to the decline in production.
“Easing the pressure on groundwater resources and soil in the country, the fair distribution of pressure or weight of water shortage in different sectors, when used as potable water, or in agriculture or industrial sector, has been underscored in this plan,” he said.
“Greenhouse farming reduces water consumption compared to open-air farming practices. Therefore, agricultural technologies such as greenhouses will be effective in conserving water while simultaneously enhancing production, exports and farmers’ livelihoods.”
Mousavi noted that grazing management must be adjusted quickly to drought conditions to preserve pastures.
“At least one million head of livestock must be purchased by State Livestock Affairs Logistics Inc. to lift pressure on the country’s pastures. Twenty-two million head of livestock now depend on grazing of pastures,” he said.
“On the other hand, given the decline in animal feed production, compared with last year, the shortage must be filled through imports. We have proposed an increase of 3.7 million tons of barley imports compared with last year to control prices, reduce the pressure of livestock on pastures and support production of milk and meat in drought condition.”
The official added that loan repayment deferrals, provision of cheap loans, paying compensation to farmers by the Agricultural Insurance Fund, financing reconstruction of water supply and transportation infrastructures, and financially assisting farmers who have lost 100% of their products are measures recommended to manage the drought crisis in the agriculture sector.
Decline in Red Meat Consumption
Domestic red meat consumption has declined considerably since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on livestock breeders and nomadic livelihood.
The decline in red meat consumption has inflicted the most harm on nomads and their livelihood, which is mainly dependent on animal husbandry, the caretaker of Nomadic Affairs Organization affiliated with the Agriculture Ministry said recently.
“Limitations placed on social events and gatherings due to the pandemic have resulted in the cancellation of weddings, funerals and religious ceremonies, and most restaurants have either closed down or have very few customers and delivery requests, which has in turn reduced red meat consumption,” Shahpour Alaei-Moqaddam was also quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.
The official noted that under the circumstances, nomadic tribes are faced with an oversupply of livestock, which threatens their livelihood.
According to deputy agriculture minister for livestock affairs, Morteza Rezaei, up to 160,000 tons of red meat are annually imported.
Hossein Nemati, the head of the Union of Iran Animal Farmers, said the absence of effective demand on the part of consumers and the imbalance between production costs and purchase prices have caused economic hardship to livestock breeders.
“The constant increase in the prices of livestock and poultry feed are burdening livestock breeders and the limiting pastures’ forage output due to drought has made production even harder and less sustainable,” he said.
“Farmers of lightweight and native livestock breeds have fallen victim to the current situation, particularly because their share of government-subsidized feed is small and they rely upon pastures to provide a significant part of their animal feed resources.”
The official added that given the economic strain, farmers opt for depopulating their lightweight or heavyweight livestock.
Nemati believes that the supply of alternative animal feed ingredients such as hay might change farmers’ culling decisions, “but they will need financial assistance, may be through the government’s cheap loans, otherwise livestock depopulating would pose a major threat to meat supply”.