EghtesadOnline: Atotal of 14,096 tons of Iran’s agrifood export consignments worth $9.19 million were sent back by nine export destinations during the first eight months of the current Iranian year (March 21-Nov. 21) on account of failure to meet standards, according to the spokesperson of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration.
“Russia returned 11,132 tons of Iranian agrifood products worth $3.3 million during the period,” Rouhollah Latifi was also quoted as saying by the Persian daily Ta’adol.
Russia recently returned 37 trucks loaded with Iranian bell pepper to the country from the Dagestan border crossing.
During the eight months, consignments of palm trees, potatoes and kiwis, among others, have been returned by destination countries.
Other countries that sent back similar consignments, the IRICA official added, were the UAE (688 tons $2.45 million), Turkmenistan (501 tons worth $1.29 million), Turkey (784 tons worth $998,425), Afghanistan (715 tons $478,699), Iraq (147 tons worth $352,448), Spain (64 tons worth $196,119), Belarus (35 tons worth $85,423) and Azerbaijan (26 tons worth $30,601).
Latifi noted that given the figures pertaining to retuned export goods over the eight months, Iranian exporters will face barriers in international markets if domestic export policies are not rectified to better meet global standards.
Experts Weigh on Iran’s Use of Pesticide on Crops
As news of Russia’s return of Iranian bell pepper consignments spread recently, officials from the private and public sectors commented on the issue.
While some are contradictory, most comments blame organizations affiliated with the Agriculture Ministry.
Mehdi Hosseini Yazdi, the head of Pesticide and Fertilizer Importers Union, says there are two sets of figures and statistics when it comes to pesticides.
“The set of figures released by Iran Plant Protection Organization pertains to the number or percentage of registered pesticides while the data that makes all the difference are the ones related to the volume of pesticides actually used. PPO figures show only 5% of the pesticides [by which it means registered ones] in the country are categorized under ‘hazardous’ but, as far as we know, 23% of the used pesticides are hazardous,” the official was quoted as saying by ILNA.
Hosseini noted that in recent years, Iran has witnessed the return of consignments of raisins, watermelon, potato, bell pepper and saffron, all for the same reason.
“A lot of the hassle will be eliminated if only PPO and other responsible bodies stand firm against contraband pesticides and not allow fake, low-quality products enter the local market. On the other hand, our farmers have not been trained on the exact time when they should be using pesticides, observing their withdrawal period and the amount they should be using on each crop,” he added.
Noting that crops will be affected by the amount and frequency of pesticide application, Kaveh Zargaran, the head of Agriculture Commission of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, says normally, the yields will not be allowed to enter other countries, therefore, farmers should pay attention to the use of pesticides in the cultivation process.
“Russia enforces strict rules and regulations on food products that enter their country. The permissible level of pollutants is controlled precisely at the country’s points of entry. In our country, however, agricultural products are being supplied to the market without being tested for pollutants,” he told the TCCIM news portal.
“Therefore, once an agricultural product is returned, we learn that the use of fertilizers or pesticides had exceeded the standards. Of course, products that are exported to Russia from all over the world face the same issue.”
Zargaran noted that Russian officials in charge of plant quarantine had informed Iranian officials of their new standards and warned about the excessive pesticide residues in Iranian products in a letter six months prior to returning the bell pepper consignments.
“Russia sent back 37 trucks loaded with the product from the Dagestan border crossing,” he added.
Hadi Tizhoush Taban, the head of Iran-Russia Chamber of Commerce, said more than 100 truckers, carrying bell pepper consignments, which were on their way to Russia are now in Iran and Azerbaijan Republic’s checkpoints not knowing what to do.
Kaykhosrow Chengelvaie, the head of Iran Plant Protection Organization, says the neighboring country has banned pepper imports from Iran since Nov. 29, citing four types of pesticides unregistered in Russia are being used in the cultivation.
Noting that the ban seems to be temporary and only pertains to pepper, the official hoped that the problem would be solved soon.
India Sets New Regulations for Kiwi Imports
Mostafa Daraeienejad, the head of Fruit and Vegetable Wholesalers Association, said on Saturday that India has not accepted Iran’s kiwi production standards.
“Starting in May and June, we received directives from our main export destinations, including Oman, Qatar, India, Russia, the UAE and Pakistan, that they will be implementing new standard regulations. Iran’s PPO documents will no longer suffice and if Iranian farmers and orchard owners want their yields to be exported, they must produce according to new standard instructions.”
Daraeinejad said some regional countries, including Turkey, are awaiting the loss of export destinations to take over.
“Russia will no longer return polluted consignments but will destroy them. Paying attention to pesticide and insecticide residues must not be restricted to export products only; even those distributed in the domestic market must also be checked for pollutants and residues as well,” he added.
Iran Pesticide Consumption vis-à-vis Global Average
Iran’s annual pesticide consumption currently stands at 30,000-35,000 tons on average, the head of Iran’s Plant Protection Organization has said.
“Some 25% of this volume are imported in the form of ready to use pesticides and the remaining 75% active ingredients are imported to be processed and combined into final products,” Chengelvaie was quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.
The official said the government is planning to reduce pesticide imports.
“At present, Iran’s average pesticide use on each hectare is at 2.2 kilograms, while the global average stands at 2.8 kilograms per hectare. On average, around 0.35 grams of pesticides are used in Iran for the production of one kilogram of agricultural goods, while the global average stands at 0.65 grams per kilogram,” he added.
The director general of the Environment and Healthy Food Department of Agriculture Ministry said pesticide use in Iran has been experiencing a downtrend every year.
“This is because biological methods used to fight pests are becoming more popular and the Agriculture Ministry has been carrying out programs to instruct farmers and orchard owners on the correct use of pesticides,” Saeed Sa’adat was also quoted as saying by IRNA.
According to Hosseini, China, India, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Germany and Switzerland are the main exporters of pesticide to Iran.
“Imports from Asian countries are carried out directly to Iran while purchases made from European countries are first transited to Turkey and then exported to Iran via Turkish companies,” he added.