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EghtesadOnline: Agrifood exports from Iran are on the decline, as imports rise significantly, latest data released by the Agriculture Ministry show.

Iran exported 5.43 million tons of agricultural and food products worth $3.35 billion during the current fiscal year’s first eight months (March 21-Nov. 21).

The figures indicate a 0.13% decline in tonnage and a 14.55% decrease in value compared with last year’s corresponding period.

Pistachio topped the list of exports in terms of value by earning $654.1 million.

Tomato was the second major agricultural export product in terms of value with $295.5 million, followed by watermelon with $181.52 million, dates with $150.54 million and apple with $131.11 million.

In terms of tonnage, watermelon topped the list with 776,430 tons, followed by tomato with 553,200 tons, potato with 470,600 tons and apple with 456,410 tons and onion, shallot and garlic with 295,570 tons.

Agronomical products accounted for 3.58 million tons worth $1.24 billion of total exports, up 1.41% in terms of tonnage, but down 11.85% in terms of value year-on-year. 

Horticultural exports amounted to 1.38 million tons worth $1.59 billion, up 3.63% in terms of tonnage and down 13.32% in value YOY respectively.

Exports of livestock and poultry products reached 389,350 tons worth $351.83 million, down 21.37% in tonnage and 29.4% in value YOY.

The veterinary sector exported 656 tons of products worth $6.81 million, up 20.99% and 32.39% in weight and value YOY respectively.

The fisheries sector exported 73,430 tons worth $133.28 million, posting a rise of 1.41% in total volume and a fall of 11.85% in value respectively YOY.

Exports from the forest and rangeland sector hit 11,640 tons worth $16.87 million, down 14.06% and 21.79% in tonnage and value respectively YOY.

Iran exported 8.83 million tons of agricultural and food products worth 

$6.21 billion during the last fiscal year (ended March 2021).

Imports accounted for 20.72 million tons worth $11.53 billion during the period, indicating a 33.11% and 71.09% growth in volume and value respectively year-on-year.

Feed corn had the biggest share of imports in terms of value with $2.09 billion, followed by wheat with $1.45 billion, GM soybeans with $1.14 billion, sunflower oil with $1.06 million and soymeal with $989.99 million.

In terms of tonnage, feed corn topped imports with 6.13 million tons, followed by wheat with 4.3 million tons, barley with 2.43 million tons, soymeal with 1.79 million tons and GM soybeans with 1.73 million tons.

Agronomical products accounted for 19.69 million tons worth $9.75 billion of total imports, up 32.82% and 78.52% in tonnage and value respectively YOY.

Horticultural products stood at 900,720 tons worth $1.13 billion, up 44.04% and 54.89% in tonnage and value respectively YOY.

Imports of livestock and poultry products hit 97,460 tons worth $319.76 million, up 35.42% in tonnage but down 0.26% in value respectively YOY.

The veterinary sector imported 3,830 tons worth $263.91 million, up 148.95% and 75.5% in tonnage and value respectively YOY.

Imports by the fisheries sector amounted to 7,890 tons worth $20.57 million, down 52% and 42.92% in tonnage and value YOY.

The forest and rangeland sector’s imports totaled 22,510 tons worth $37.55 million, down 22.05% in tonnage but up 3.51% in value YOY.

The export and import volumes indicate that Iran recorded an agrifood trade deficit of 15.29 million tons in tonnage and $8.18 billion in value during the first eight months of the Iranian year.



Agrifood Shipments Worth $9m Returned

A total of 14,096 tons of Iran’s exported agrifood consignments worth $9.19 million were returned by nine of Iran’s export destinations during the first eight months of the current Iranian year (March 21-Nov. 21) due to 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 sent back 37 trucks loaded with Iranian bell pepper from the Dagestan border crossing.

During the eight months, consignments of palm trees, potatoes and kiwis 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 export goods repatriated over the eight months, Iranian exporters will face roadblocks in international markets if domestic export policies are not rectified to better meet global standards.  



Pesticide Use Under Scrutiny

As news of Russia’s repatriation of Iran’s bell pepper export consignments spread, private and public sector players 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 Plant Protection Organization released pertain to the number or percentage of registered pesticides while the data, which makes all the difference, are the ones related to the volume of pesticides actually used. PPO figures say only 5% of the pesticides [by which it means registered ones] in the country are categorized under ‘hazardous’, yet, as far as we know, 23% of the used pesticides are hazardous,” the official was quoted as saying by ILNA.

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 spurious pesticides and prevent fake, low-quality products from entering the local market. On the other hand, our farmers have not been educated on the exact time of using pesticides, observing their withdrawal period and the amount they should be using on each crop,” Yazdi said.

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 stand a chance of entering 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. Therefore, once an agricultural product is returned, we learn that the use of fertilizers or pesticides had exceeded the standards. Of course, products exported to Russia from all over the world face the same issue,” he told the TCCIM news portal. 

Zargaran added 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 the repatriation of bell pepper consignments.

“Russia sent back 37 trucks loaded with the product from 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 at Azerbaijan Republic’s checkpoints, not knowing what to do. 

Iran’s annual pesticide consumption currently averages 30,000-35,000 tons, the head of Iran’s Plant Protection Organization said.

“Some 25% of this sum 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,” Kaykhosrow Changlavayi was also 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 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.”

Director General of the Environment and Healthy Food Department of Agriculture Ministry Saeed Sa’adat says pesticide use in Iran has been experiencing a downtrend every year. 

“This is because biological methods used to fight pests are becoming more and more popular, and the Agriculture Ministry has been carrying out programs to instruct farmers and orchard owners on the correct use of pesticides,” Sa’adat was also quoted as saying by IRNA.

According to Hosseini Yazdi, 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 said.


Iran Agrifood