Economy, Domestic Economy

Rice Farming With Ease

Rice Farming With EaseRice Farming With Ease

Just like every other summer-end, rice farmers are busy harvesting the paddies; this year though, with some peace of mind.

The prospective increase in production due to favorable climatic conditions has prompted the government to extend a ban on rice imports until after the end of the harvest season.

“In a meeting with top officials, it was decided that the import ban should remain in place until 3 months after the end of the harvest season (September),” Ezatollah Yousefian, a member of the Parliament’s Budget and Planning Commission, told the Persian daily Forsat-e Emrouz.

This year, rice cultivation in Iran’s northern provinces Mazandaran and Gilan, which are the country’s rice production hubs, started over a month ago. Head of Mazandaran Province’s Agricultural Jihad Organization, Delavar Heydarpour says the crop is satisfactory in terms of yield and quality.

“More than half of the paddies have been harvested and are in good condition,” he said, forecasting harvest in the current Iranian year (started March 21) will increase about 10%.

Top producer province Mazandaran, which accounts for 210,000 hectares of paddy fields, is expected to produce 1.2 to 1.3 million tons of rough rice by the end of the harvest season.

Heydarpour says the increased production comes with rich quality as well; due to low amount of cracked crops on the one hand and low usage of pesticides on the other. The summer heat has kept pests such as stem borers and rice blasts away.

Demand for domestic rice has also grown, keeping pace with the production. Many farmers in Mazandaran are planning to recultivate. Heydarpour attributes the increasing demand to effective policies adopted by the Ministry of Agricultural Jihad such as a 40% tariff on imports ordered as of March 21.

 “No orders for rice importation have been placed in the current [Iranian] year,” said Heydarpour.

The rice market, however, has witnessed small amount of imports, which according to the official, are associated with orders placed before the ban was imposed. The shrunken level of imports, he believes, has not had considerable impact on the market and prices have remained stable.

Also, decline in imports have eliminated the need for the government to implement its keynote policy of ‘guaranteed purchasing”. Under the policy, when crop prices fall the government buys the grains from farmers to cushion them from possible losses.

Heydarpour said he expected that the government will not have to guarantee-purchase the crops this year as no price decline is on the horizon.

 Water Shortage

As dwindling surface and underground water resources in cities with dry climate have recently been alarming, experts voice concern that the water shortage may spread to the northern provinces.

Mazandaran suffered a shortage of rainfalls in spring. “Between 500-600 hectares of the paddy fields in the province were destroyed because of the water shortage and another 20,000 hectares were exposed to water scarcity,” said Heydarpour, adding that the ministry, in cooperation with Mazandaran’s Governorate and Regional Water Company—an arm of the Energy Ministry—managed to save paddy fields until heavy rains in summer somehow eased the concerns.

He advised farmers to avoid recultivation in the fields with higher risk of water shortage as the threat is not yet over. He warned farmers who use underground water to keep the cultivation limited and save the water resources for the next crop year.