Economy, Business And Markets

Gov’t Vows Support for Rice Farmers

Gov’t Vows Support for Rice Farmers
Gov’t Vows Support for Rice Farmers

Official figures show that rice imports during the first quarter of the current Iranian year (March 21-June 22) dropped 40 percent compared to the same period last year. Now, experts interpret the dramatic decrease in rice imports this year as a sign that the government has finally decided to support domestic rice farmers.

For the past decade, Iranian rice farmers have suffered from government decisions that allowed for excessive imports of rice.

When former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office in 2005, the tariff on rice import was 150% which well protected rice farmers. But following an overnight decision, rice tariff was reduced to 20% which was a shattering blow to domestic rice production. The former government later cut the tariff further to 10% in the Iranian calendar year 1392 – which ended March 20, 2014 – a move which led to import of more than 1.96 million tons of rice last year.

On many Iranian families’ tables, the Iranian rice with its appetizing aroma was soon replaced by the Indian rice or Basmati which is not that bad in appearance but poor in taste and smell.

The importation of Indian rice caused numerous disputes over health standards. On different occasions, the health ministry and the national standards organization warned over heath issues regarding consumption of Indian rice.

The regulatory bodies claimed there were alarming levels of known human carcinogen such as arsenic and lead found in tests of the imported rice.

But for unknown reasons, such warnings were never taken seriously and the government firmly said there was no proof of contamination in imported Indian rice.

After years of suffering, domestic rice farmers are now happy with the government’s decision to cut imports and purchase Iranian rice at a guaranteed price. Rice import tariff has also increased to 40 percent.

Iranian rice farmers are now encouraged to do their best to increase production which currently stands at 2.4 million tons per year.    

The Rouhani administration has also pledged to strictly monitor health standards of imported rice. Iran has recently asked Indian rice exporters to provide health certificates for their products, and to decrease the acceptable level of arsenic from 150 parts per million (ppm) to 120 ppm.