Domestic Economy

Requiem for Potatoes!

Requiem for Potatoes!
Requiem for Potatoes!

The Ministry of Agricultural Jihad has rejected the claims that some 1,700 tons of potatoes have been buried in Fars Province by the Central Organization of Rural Cooperatives of Iran for creating market balance.

Despite the fact that many countries consider decimation of vast surpluses of agricultural commodities as a tool for market adjustment, the Iranian ministry has never gone down that road, a statement by the ministry read, IRNA reported.

“Sustainable production, support for consumption and food safety are high on the ministry’s agenda. Providing food safety through domestic resources has been one of the top priorities of the government. Special support lent by the government to the agriculture sector has boosted production and motivated farmers. This led to an 11% rise in agricultural production in the past two years,” it said.

According to the ministry’s report, more than 4 million tons of potatoes are annually produced in Iran, which are enough to meet the domestic need for this staple food.

The export of 400,000 tons of last season’s harvest was aimed at preventing an enormous market glut and promoting export.

On this particular occasion, there was no option but to get rid of the agricultural product due to the risk of plant pests and diseases.

The dumping of potatoes in Fars Province was intended to ensure food safety since the potatoes had gone off and could not even be used as livestock feed, the statement reiterated.

  How It All Started

“MP Mehdi Kouchakzadeh shouted, tendered his resignation and walked out of an open session of Majlis.”

This was the news that found its way on the front-pages of most Iranian newspapers last week. His resignation was in protest at the dumping of potatoes.

This is the second time the subject of potato has become the talk of the town. The year 2009 saw free distribution of potatoes.

At that time, public reactions to the news were mixed. Some claimed that the potatoes were rotten and others said the move was aimed at keeping prices up in the face of potato surplus.

Mohammad Rahim-Niyazi, the head of National Association of Potato, said, “The potatoes were rotten, so there was no possibility of using them as cattle feed. What I gather is that the government measure was right, otherwise we would have faced a potato crisis in the coming years and people would have to pay dearly for this agricultural produce.”

When told that the government spokesman, Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, has claimed the potatoes did not belong to any government institution, Rahim-Niyazi said, these potatoes were bought under a government scheme to purchase crops from farmers at guaranteed price through the Organization of Rural Cooperatives of Iran.

“The government provides the fund for such purchases,” he said.

Ahad Behjat-Haqiqi, director general of Fars Province Rural Cooperatives, said the potatoes were buried in July.

“Before that, many potato farmers were grappling with problems due to low prices of their products. We decided to take action to alleviate the pressure on farmers. The excess supply of agricultural products lowers prices, so it is not an unprecedented step to bury agricultural products that are in excess of market need,” he said.

The resignation by the MP also struck his fellow parliamentarian Gholamali Jafarzadeh as surprising.

“Around 1.396 million tons of potatoes in 2005 and 1.74 million tons in 2008 were dumped, but there was no vocal opponent of the move then. What the Organization of Rural Cooperatives did was aimed at adjusting the market and has been done before for other products such as chicken,” he said.

Jafarzadeh underlined the fact that farmers would go under if complimentary potatoes were dished out.

“Based on the documents, these potatoes had gone rotten and there was no possibility of their distribution. The orders by prosecutor’s office, Agricultural Jihad Ministry and the governor of the province [on decimation of potatoes] are all available,” he said.