EghtesadOnline: Iran’s non-oil foreign trade stood at 79.1 million tons worth $45 billion during the first half of the current Iranian year (March 21-Sept. 22), registering a 47% growth in value compared with the similar period of last year, according to the head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration.
Iran’s exports stood at 60 million tons worth $21.8 billion in the six-month period, showing a 30% and 61% rise in weight and value respectively year-on-year, Mehdi Mirashrafi was also quoted as saying by Iribnews.ir.
Iran’s main export destinations were China with 14.8 million tons worth $6.5 billion, Iraq with 13.9 million tons worth $3.8 billion, Turkey with 7.2 million tons worth $2.3 billion, the UAE with 5.8 million tons worth $2.2 billion and Afghanistan with 2.5 million tons worth $1 billion.
The exports mainly included liquefied natural gas, methanol, polyethylene, semi-finished iron products, iron ingots, propane, urea, iron bars and cathodes.
Imports during the six months under review amounted to 19.1 million tons worth $23.14 billion, registering a 15% and 37% rise in tonnage and volume respectively year-on-year.
The UAE with 5.9 million tons worth $7.3 billion, China with 1.5 million tons worth $5 billion, Turkey with 2.1 million tons worth $2.4 billion and Switzerland with 1 million tons worth $900,000 topped the list of exporters to Iran during the period.
The imports mainly included corn, soybeans, sunflower oil, soymeal, wheat, barley, sugar, palm oil and unrefined vegetable oils.
Essential Goods in the Limelight
From the total imports, 14.3 million tons worth over $8.8 billion constituted essential goods, such that the former accounted for 75% of the total volume, Mirashrafi said.
He added that in the month ending Sept. 22, IRICA stepped up clearance procedures from Iranian port.
“In the five months ending Aug. 22, an average of 2.7 million tons of commodities worth $3.3 billion were imported per month, while the figure reached 5.3 million tons worth $6.5 billion in the following month,” he added.
Also known as necessity goods, essential goods are products consumers will buy, regardless of changes in income levels.
According to the technical deputy of IRICA, Mehrdad Jamal Arvanaghi, 12.4 million tons of the total imported essential goods were entitled to subsidized foreign currency at the rate of 42,000 rials per dollar, and the remaining 1.96 million tons were imported using the Integrated Forex, locally known as Nima, ISNA reported.
Nima is a secondary market developed by the Central Bank of Iran as a venue where companies sell their export earnings at rates lower than the open market. The currencies sold on Nima help fund imports. The rate is much higher than 42,000 but still lower than the market rate that hovers around 275,000 rials per dollar these days.
Seven types of essential goods were imported using the rate of 42,000 rials per US dollar, namely unprocessed vegetable oils with 1.1 million tons worth $1.5 billion, corn with 4.3 million tons worth $1.4 billion, oilseeds with 1.5 million tons worth $1 billion, wheat with 2.1 million tons worth $698.5 million, soymeal with 1.2 million tons worth $684.1 million, barley with 1.9 million tons worth $575.8 million and 7,000 tons of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment worth $933 million.
Commodities imported using the integrated forex rate included rice with 714,700 tons worth $608.1 million, sugar with 764,100 tons worth $328.8, machinery parts with 20,600 tons worth $216.8 million, tires for heavy vehicles with 31,800 tons worth $116.1 million, fertilizers with 82,300 tons worth $55 million, pesticides with 5,500 tons worth $48 million and veterinarian medicines with 142,100 tons worth $20 million.
The official was earlier quoted as saying that 12 million tons of essential goods worth $7 billion were cleared from customs from March 21, the beginning of the current fiscal year, to Sept. 17, registering a 24% and 80% growth in weight and value respectively, “which is a record in Iran’s custom clearance”, Mehr News Agency reported.
Imam Khomeini Port located in the southern province of Khuzestan Province is the main hub of essential goods imports in Iran.
A total of 8.4 million tons of essential goods were offloaded at Imam Khomeini Port by 150 ocean-going vessels during H1, indicating a 22% rise year-on-over, according to Mahmoud Hosseinzadeh, a local official.
“During the same period, about 8.3 million tons of these goods were shipped to different destinations across the country as 2.9 million tons of essential goods are being stored in warehouses of Imam Khomeini Port, registering a 40% growth compared with the same period of last year,” he was quoted as saying by IRNA.
The port boasts 40 wharfs, 140 kilometers of railroads within its premises and the latest loading and unloading facilities.
Most of Iran’s requirements for livestock feed raw material and grains are imported through this southern port.
“Imam Khomeini Port Special Economic Zone with its advanced equipment and an annual capacity of 50 million tons has an important role in the supply chain and food security of the country,” Director General of Khuzestan Ports and Maritime Organization Adel Daris has been quoted as saying by ISNA.
Upsurge in Transit
Mirashrafi noted that 5.85 million tons of goods were transited through Iran in H1 to register an 88% surge YOY.
A total 4.2 million tons of different commodities were transited through land borders during the period, showing a 133% jump compared with the similar period of last year, according to the director general of International Transportation Bureau with the Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization of Iran.
“Out of the total sum, more than 2.64 million tons were non-oil products and the remaining 1.56 million tons were oil products,” Javad Hedayati was also quoted as saying by the news portal of the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development.
Over the period under review, the official added that 78% of the transit goods were shipped by Iranian road fleet.
Iran earns $200 from each ton of transit goods, according to the newly-appointed secretary of the High Council of Free Trade and Special Economic Zones.
“Every year, more than 1 billion tons of commodities are transited through the Suez Canal. By attracting 5% of this volume to be transited through our borders, the revenues can be considerable,” Hamidreza Momeni was also quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency recently.
Transit via Iranian border crossings as well as the country’s foreign truck commutes have increased to reach the levels recorded before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, Director General of the Transit and International Transport Bureau of the Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization said recently.
“After the coronavirus spread across the region more than a year ago, our surrounding countries closed their borders to Iranian transit trucks. Later, regulations were loosened, yet commutes were still restricted. This resulted in a drastic fall in the country’s transit activities,” Hedayati said.
At present, he added, truck commutes from Iran’s 24 border crossings are back to pre-Covid days with the exception of the border with Turkmenistan, which still has its ban in place.
The official stressed that the National Coronavirus Headquarters and the Health Ministry have been requested to prioritize the vaccination of transit drivers so things could speed up in the international transportation sector.
“This is what many countries have done and we need to do the same for close to 150,000 drivers that facilitate our foreign trade and transit,” he added.
A total of 7.53 million tons of commodities were transited through Iran during the last Iranian year (March 2020-21), showing a 0.89% decline compared with the year before, according to the spokesperson of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration.
“The transit volume came despite the outbreak of Covid-19, which closed down many of our common border crossings for a few months,” Rouhollah Latifi was also quoted as saying by Fars News Agency.
The country’s top 10 busiest transit borders were Shahid Rajaee Special Economic Zone in the southern Hormozgan Province with more than 3,3 million tons, Bazargan in West Azarbaijan Province with 703,000 tons, Bashmaq in Kurdestan Province with 687,000 tons, Sarakhs in Khorasan Razavi Province with 457,000 tons, Imam Khomeini Port checkpoint in Khuzestan Province with 447,000 tons, Bileh Savar in Ardabil Province with 337,000 tons, Jolfa in East Azarbaijan Province 312,000 tons, Razi in East Azarbaijan Province with 188,000 tons, Astara in Gilan Province with 156,000 tons and Bandar Lengeh in Hormozgan Province with 139,000 tons.
The spokesman said these 10 border crossings accounted for 89% of Iran’s overall transit during the period under review.
With 12 wharfs, Shahid Rajaee is Iran’s biggest container port, accounting for 90% of the country’s total container throughput.
Over half of Iran’s commercial trading is carried out at Shahid Rajaee, which is located 23 kilometers west of the port city of Bandar Abbas, the capital of Hormozgan Province.