EghtesadOnline: Agrifood exports stood at 2.4 million tons worth $1.22 billion in the first three months of the current fiscal year (March 21-June 21), registering a 17.3% growth in terms of weight and a 1.1% decline in terms of value year-on-year.
The figures were announced by Mehrdad Jamal Orounaqi, the deputy head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration for technical affairs, ISNA reported.
Iraq with $226.8 million, the UAE with $42.5 million, Afghanistan with $29 million, India with $34 million, China with $27.4 million, Russia with $28 million, Pakistan with $15.9 million and Germany with $13.5 million were the main export destinations.
The main Iranian exports were watermelon, pistachio, tomato, apple, orange, milk powder, melon and cocoa-free sweets.
Watermelon and Water Stress
Watermelon topped the list of exported goods worth $111.9 million, including $67.8 million to Iraq, $30 million to the UAE and $14.1 million to Russia, Orounaqi added.
Expressing his disapproval regarding the sheer volume of Iran’s watermelon exports amid the country’s water crisis, Reza Nourani, the head of National Agricultural Products Association of Iran, says cultivating each kilogram of watermelon requires around 286 tons of water.
“The fact that the main agricultural crops imported into Iran is wheat, which needs much less water to grow, and that the main exported agricultural product is one requiring such a high volume of water testifies to the extent of mismanagement,” he was quoted as saying by the news portal of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture.
Agricultural experts have frequently warned against the export of watermelon amid the acute shortage of water in the country.
Drought has inflicted losses worth 670 trillion rials ($2.7 billion) 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 farmlands in 30 provinces show 43% of the total losses pertained to the decline in the production of agronomic crops, as well as a decline of 26% to horticultural products, 13% to fisheries and livestock, and 11% to forage crops,” he said.
“In addition, 4% of the total damage are to be blame 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 precipitation rate in the current crop year has decreased by 54% compared with last year and 41% compared with the long-time average, Mousavi said besides the decline in precipitation rate, the rise in heatwaves and evaporation, as well as the inappropriate distribution of rainfall has resulted in drought and its adverse consequences on the agriculture sector.
“Reports by Iran Meteorological Organization show that 92% of the country have been affected by drought at different levels: 20% of the country’s area are facing extreme drought, 28% severe drought, 25% moderate drought and 19% of the country are going through stages of becoming abnormally dry. Only 8% of the country are having normal conditions,” he added.
Pistachio Exports at $103m
Iran's second largest agrifood export was fresh and dried pistachios worth about $103 million.
India with $34 million was the main export destination of pistachio. It was followed by China with $27.4 million, Iraq with $14.2, Russia with $13.9 and Germany with $13.5.
Iran’s annual domestic demand for pistachio amounts to 35,000-45,000 tons, accounting for 20% of the total output. On average, Iran exports 80% of its total pistachio yields.
Iran and the US are the world’s biggest producers of pistachio. The US output has overtaken Iran’s in recent years, although the quality of the Iranian crop is widely said to be superior to that of the US.
In addition, Iran has more diverse varieties of pistachio than the US.
Iranian pistachios have a world-famous flavor that is unrivaled. This taste advantage is improved by roasting Iranian pistachios at higher temperatures, due to its higher unsaturated oil content. This high-temperature roasting also reduces any bacterial pollution, which may exist in raw product.
According to Ratinkhosh R&D Team, Iranian pistachios have more capability for roasting. Due to their higher unsaturated oil content, they can be roasted at 160 to 180°C (hot stream temperature). Excellent roasting with higher temperature brings out the unique flavor of the pistachio.
Agrifood Accounts for 17.6% of Total Exports
Food and agricultural products accounted for 7.7% of the volume of Iran’s total exports in the fiscal 2020-221 and 17.6% of the value of exports, according to the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration’s spokesperson, Rouhollah Latifi.
Iran exported 346 types of agrifood products in the period under review, of which 225 types were worth over $2,000 per ton.
This is while about 70% of exported non-oil goods, excluding agrifood products, were worth less than $1,000 per ton, IRNA reported.
The agriculture sector has been one of the main drivers of growth in Iran’s economy amid the recession in other sectors in recent years.
However, Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture has warned agricultural officials in a recent report of an imminent drought that would cripple the country’s agricultural activities and hamper economic growth in this sector in the current Iranian year (March 2021-22).
The ICCIMA report says precipitation levels have drastically fallen over the last two months to reach 142 millimeters, which is 52% less than last year’s similar period, Mehr News Agency reported.
The Majlis Research Center has released a list of Iranian provinces in critical state of water shortage: Isfahan, Hormozgan, Sistan-Baluchestan, Ardabil, Fars, Markazi and Khorasan Razavi.
The center has also pointed to the decline in dam water storage levels across the country, saying that on average only 58% of the country’s dam capacities are currently full, which indicates the critical condition.
Iran exported 8.83 million tons of agricultural and food products worth $6.21 billion in the last fiscal year (ended March 2021).
The figures indicate a 23.57% and 5.99% rise in tonnage and value respectively compared with the output of the year before, the Agriculture Ministry’s website reported.