Economy, Business And Markets

Plan to Use Foreign Land for Farming

Plan to Use Foreign Land for FarmingPlan to Use Foreign Land for Farming

The Ministry of Agricultural Jihad plans to cultivate corps in 500,000 hectares of foreign land over the next couple of years as part of its “Agriculture Beyond Borders” program, according to Deputy Minister of Agricultural Jihad Mohammad Ali Tahmasebi.

Dwindling water resources, drought, soil degradation and low productivity in the agriculture sector have prompted authorities in the ministry to look for solutions that ensure food security for the country and redress the negative trade balance of agricultural products.

“There are two ways to reduce reliance on agricultural imports and achieve self-sufficiency in food production: growing competitive crops with export potential and increasing production of imported crops such as oilseeds through farming in other countries,” the official told Forsat-e Emrooz newspaper.

The Ministry of Agricultural Jihad intends to meet the domestic demand for agro products by cultivating them in countries with suitable conditions.

“Apart from food security, the practice could help reduce foreign currency spending, create employment, enhance international relations and encourage the export of technical and engineering services,” said the official.

  Gov’t Should Promote Private Sector

Lack of suitable government policies in managing crop patterns and regulating the market is seen as the main reason behind the negative trade balance in the agricultural sector. Therefore, experts believe the government should step back and allow private sector investors to take part in the beyond-borders program.

“The government should hand over the task to private sector investors who could buy or rent farmland overseas and produce the crops demanded by the government. The government should also provide full support to investors for the import and sale of agro products,” Ramezan Tahmasebi, an expert in agriculture and irrigation, suggested.

Justifying the feasibility of beyond-border agriculture, he said: “Availability of abundant water resources in some countries makes it possible to take thousands of hectares of land under cultivation. This is while the annual rental value for one hectare of agricultural land in these countries is only about $5-$10, which is affordable for Iranian investors.”

He called for giving more attention to farming beyond borders, saying: “A country of 80 million people with a large number of educated youth should be able to produce its own food.”

Despite the benefits, the program has also drawn criticism from those who argue that the full agricultural potential within the country has not yet been utilized.

Head of the Agriculture, Water and Natural Resources Commission of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, Ali Hadizadeh, had earlier objected to the program, pointing that while there still remain unused capacities in domestic agriculture, shifting investments to other countries is not a wise decision.

Instead, he suggested the use of modern irrigation systems and adopting crop patterns suitable for the country’s climatic condition to increase water efficiency.

  New EIB-FAO Partnership

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recently signed a five-year memorandum of understanding with the European Investment Bank for deepening investment in the field of agriculture and private sector development in countries outside of the European Union, FAO announced in a press release.

FAO’s representative to Iran, Serge Nakouzi, believes Iran could benefit from opportunities provided by FAO-EIB agreement to strengthen investments in agrifood systems by engaging both the public and private sectors.

“Such investments will contribute towards the development of a strong, sustainable and resilient agricultural sector and reinvigorate the role of this sector in the national economy,” the official added.

Given recent developments and the envisaged expansion of economic engagement of European countries with Iran, increased investment in agricultural rural development and food security is becoming a salient issue that needs to be addressed.

“The need for more and better agricultural investment in Iran is becoming increasingly crucial in the light of the trends witnessed over the past decades. With food demand on the rise due to a growing population, the country faces the challenges of higher demand for quality and safer food products while confronting resource constraints and environmental threats as well as the adverse impacts of climate change,” the FAO envoy added.

Iran became a member of FAO on December 1, 1953. The Representation Office in the Islamic Republic of Iran was reopened in May 1992 after the Islamic Revolution’s victory in 1979. It is currently hosted by the Ministry of Agricultural Jihad.