Economy, Business And Markets

Market Awash With Smuggled Fruit

Market Awash With Smuggled FruitMarket Awash With Smuggled Fruit

Unseasonal fruits such as Chilean grapes and Turkish peaches are some of the smuggled produce flooding the Iranian markets only a month from Norouz holidays that mark the onset of the Iranian New Year.

 This has drawn the ire of many local farmers as well as officials with the ministries of trade and agriculture, who appear to be engaged in a blame game for the time being.

According to the Central Taskforce to Combat the Smuggling of Goods and Foreign Currency, around 15,000 tons of fruits were smuggled into the country in the nine months ending December 21, 2015. The figure registers a whopping 300% rise compared with the corresponding period of last year, Mehr News Agency reported.

“A truck loaded with smuggled fruit was seized in Tehran, as it was unloading its cargo. Also, trucks carrying as much as 54 tons of oranges and limes were confiscated in the southern cities. These are just to mention a few,” said Alireza Golestani-Zadeh, an official with the taskforce.

“Smuggled fruits are shipped into the country alongside 3,000 containers carrying other goods. It’s not possible to check all these containers.”

Furthermore, according to Khorasan Razavi Industries, Mining and Trade Organization, since the start of the current Iranian year (to end March 19, 2016), around 12,000 tons of smuggled fruits worth $17,100 were seized in this northeastern province alone.

On Monday, Minister of Industries, Mining and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh said, “According to the law, the onus is on the Ministry of Agricultural Jihad to provide and distribute fruits across the country.”

Agriculture Minister Mahmoud Hojjati had time and again thrown the ball out of his ministry’s court by saying, “The buck doesn’t stop with the Agriculture Ministry; rather the Law Enforcement Forces of Islamic Republic—Iranian police—border police and the customs administration should undertake this responsibility.”

The trade minister noted that reports from western and southeastern parts of the country indicate fruits are imported into the country in small quantities by locals who frequently shuttle back and forth across the border, kept in a storehouse in their hometown before a truck picks up a cargo and takes it to bigger towns where the goods are sold through legal retail networks.

Nematzadeh said there are videos to be handed to the Cabinet soon, which would verify these claims.

Earlier this week, deputy agriculture minister, Mohammad Ali Tahmasebi, called for stricter measures and an all-out fight against the scourge of fruit smuggling.

“As decreed by the Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, combating fruit smuggling is a national duty,” he said.

Reza Nourani, the head of Agricultural Producers’ Union, said Iran is among the top producers of many fruits, so there is no need to import foreign products.

He added that the import of contraband fruit also risks spreading pests and diseases, as they do not go through the required health checks.

Referring to the ban on imports of fruits other than tropical fruits, Nourani said, “This year 573,000 tons of bananas worth $50 million were imported into the country, which was virtually in excess of domestic needs. To balance the fruit market, officials should first carry out analysis and then issue permits on imports or exports.”