There is no doubt that wheat is a strategic commodity. It has always been a very sensitive issue, stealing the limelight in the media every time the harvesting season nears. On the one hand, farmers seek to sell their products at higher prices to the government and the government, on the other, tries to build its strategic stocks in light of concerns about domestic food security. In a move that could swerve public opinion in a wrong direction, media outlets have been lately accusing the government of what they call “excessive imports of wheat”, Iranian daily Forsat-Emrooz reported.
We have to admit that wheat in Iran is a special commodity that needs special treatment and attention. According to statistics released last year, the country has to produce 11 million metric tons of wheat to be able to meet its annual domestic needs, while preliminary forecasts show that 10.4 million metric tons of wheat was produced during the past year.
It may be argued that the country needs to import only 600,000 tons of wheat to fully meet its domestic needs. However it is not that simple! Out of the 11 million tons of wheat that was produced domestically last year, the government was able to purchase only 6.7 million tons. That was not because the government failed to live up to its commitment for guaranteed purchasing of the product. It was basically the farmers who were unwilling to sell to the government.
To offset below-average production, the government was left with no option but to import nearly 4.3 million tons of wheat last year. It is also facing a daunting task in that it needs to store enough amount of wheat to secure domestic needs for at least six months.
In addition to the aforementioned 4.3 million tons, the government needs to import an extra 5.5 million tons. Therefore, importing 10 million tons of wheat seems to be reasonable and acceptable.
With that said, the government cannot be accused of importing excessive amount of the strategic commodity. One can criticize the government’s move to import wheat only when domestic production increases to 16 million. Also, the government has to be able to purchase from the farmers their entire production. However, in the present circumstances, the government has no choice but to opt for import.
The government needs time before it is able to implement its various plans and programs to achieve self-sufficiency in wheat production; and this has to be taken into account by the media when reporting on such sensitive issues.