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EghtesadOnline: A total of 52,800 tons of red meat were produced in Iran’s official slaughterhouses during the month ending Nov. 21 to register a 47% rise compared with the similar month of last year and a 5% month-on-month increase.

The Statistical Center of Iran's latest report shows beef accounted for 28,466 tons, or 51.6% of the overall production, indicating a year-on-year increase of 39%.

A total of 22,073 tons of lamb (up 65% YOY), 3,632 tons of goat meat (up 65% YOY) and 965 tons of meat from other types of livestock were produced during the one-month period, accounting for 40%, 6.6% and 1.8% of the total output respectively, SCI reported on its website.

This is while demand for red meat has declined by 25-30% and per capita consumption decreased to 8.5 kilograms (12 kg=standard) in the current Iranian year (March 2020-21) compared to the year before, according to the chairman of Iran Sheep Meat Union.

“The decline in meat consumption has been higher than in previous years due to rising prices,” Ali Asghar Maleki was also quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency on Monday.



Ban on Livestock Exports Lifted

The Agriculture Ministry recently communicated the termination of the ban on light and heavy livestock exports in a directive to its subsidiaries as well as to the ministries of industries and economy, as well as the Plan and Budget Organization.

Based on the directive signed by Javad Sadatinejad, who is also the head of Agricultural Products Pricing Council, the relevant bodies have until Oct. 20 to determine the ceiling and type of livestock for exports, such that exports do not disturb the domestic market, ILNA reported. 

The official noted that the ban on export of livestock used for breeding will remain in place, adding that the State Livestock Affairs Logistics Company has been appointed as the executive of the new measure and is mandated to collaborate with associations, unions and the private sector to monitor the impact of exports on the domestic market.

“Presently, a total of 7 million light and 200,000 heavy head of livestock are in excess of domestic demand in Iran’s rural and nomadic regions as well as in industrial farms,” says Mansour Pourian, the head of National Livestock Supply Council.

“The new directive, for which we had been negotiating, debating and waiting for so long, can help save the industry by ridding animal farms of their overweight livestock that have no customers in the domestic market and have accumulated in farms, consuming feed that is currently scarce and expensive. Livestock farmers have been complaining about this difficult situation for months and now, there seems to be some hope for change,” the official was quoted as saying by IRNA.

Sadatinejad explained that based on the new directive, light livestock weighing over 55 kilograms and heavy ones over 750 kilograms qualify for exports. 

“There are now more than 70 million light and 8.2 million head of heavy livestock in Iran. Given these figures as well as the surplus, export is not likely to cause any inconvenience or disruption in the domestic market,” he said. 

“It is expected that 500,000 head of light and 50,000 head of heavy livestock will be shipped to export destinations, the Persian Gulf littoral countries and Iraq in particular, in the near future.”

Pourian noted that these figures are not high at all, but official exports per se can reduce the volume of livestock smuggled out of Iran and open space for newly-born and young cattle and herds that are in demand in the country.



Demand-Supply Analysis

According to the head of National Livestock Supply Council, domestic demand stood close to 1 million tons before the Covid-19 outbreak, 880,000 tons of which were produced inside the country and around 10% were imported.

“After the pandemic started, meat consumption declined, partly due to increased prices and partly because restaurants and venues hosting ceremonies were closed down. These places accounted for a large share of domestic demand for meat. Our estimates are that this year, local meat production will reach 720,000 tons, which means domestic demand can be met easily,” he said.

Livestock exports were banned a few years ago to reduce red meat prices that had skyrocketed at the time. Not only did the policy fail to stop prices from increasing, it also pushed animal farmers and businesses active in the industry to the brink of bankruptcy.

Add to this the disorder in livestock feed imports, supply and distribution, which also increased expenses for farmers.

Afshin Sadr-Dadras, the head of Light Livestock Owners Association, told Mehr News Agency in July that light livestock between 100 and 150 days old were being slaughtered and marketed, due to the shortage of livestock feed.

“This will definitely result in a scarcity of sheep herds and a drastic rise in meat prices in the near future, as even livestock capable of breeding are being sent to slaughterhouses,” he said. 

The government set up an online platform called Bazargah and claimed it would solve the problem of animal feed distribution, sideline middlemen, manage allotments to each farm and put an end to rents and illegal activities in the field.

Sadr-Dadras said this never happened. 

“The allotments were not sufficient and the delivery of livestock feed consignments took at least two months after the orders were placed. Therefore, farmers were made to procure these products from the open market at much higher prices,” he said.

“For this reason and because animal farmers were unable to procure as much feed as they needed, young livestock were sold for slaughter. Practically speaking, a large part of our herd owners have now gone bankrupt.”

The official stressed that the end price for the production of each kilo of sheep meat stands at around 1 million rials (about $3) but it was bought at between 350,000 rials ($1.1) and 430,000 rials ($1.4) per kilo, which doesn’t add up. 

Echoing similar views, Mojtaba Aali, CEO of the National Animal Farmers Association, said drought and low precipitation levels have made most pastures barren and fodder is highly scarce.

“Add to this the mismanagement in animal feed imports and distribution. Right now, the meat market is doing fine because farmers, unable to feed their livestock, are selling them too early. What this will lead to is a dramatic fall on the supply side within the next three to six months,” he said.