Economy, Domestic Economy

Gov’t to Plug Agro Trade Deficit

Gov’t to Plug Agro Trade DeficitGov’t to Plug Agro Trade Deficit

Iran is planning to eliminate trade deficit in the food sector, the agriculture minister said.

“In the agriculture sector, we have focused on the food trade balance. We are trying to push the negative balance to zero,” IRNA also quoted Mahmoud Hojjati as saying on Sunday.

According to the minister, Iranian food imports outpaced exports by $5.5 billion in the past Iranian year (ended March 20, 2015), indicating a sharp decline from the $8.1 billion registered a year before.

“The negative balance of agricultural trade further shrank to $2.7 billion during the first 10 months of the current Iranian year,” he said, hoping that the number does not surpass $4 billion by the end of the year.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Ali Qanbari said earlier that Iran, the second-largest wheat consumer in the Middle East, will export 400,000 tons of the grain amid bumper domestic production.

The government bought 8.08 million tons of wheat from local farmers this year, 1.4 million tons more than the previous year. Stockpiles will be 8.3 million tons for 2015, compared with the average of 3.1 million tons for 2012 to 2014, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

 Restrictive Measures

Hojjati said Iran will not need more wheat and sugar imports in the current year, as reserves will suffice domestic demand.

To battle sugar’s oversupply, the government banned its imports in April.

“The sugar market is saturated with both domestic produce and surplus from last year’s imports,” deputy minister of agriculture, Abbas Keshavarz, said.

He noted that the measure was taken by the ministry to balance the market and support domestic manufacturers.

Rice was also subject to the imports ban, which was imposed in October last year to protect domestic rice farmers during the harvest season.

On November, the Agriculture Ministry lifted the ban temporarily to meet the deficit in domestic production.

Around 3 million tons of rice are consumed annually in Iran, 1.7 million tons of which have been met via domestic production in the current crop year.

Some 433,000 tons of rice were imported in the seven-month period from March to October, through orders placed before the ban.

The government has adopted supportive policies for rice cultivation in the northern regions, which account for the lion’s share of Iran’s rice production. There are reportedly 210,000 hectares of paddy fields in Mazandaran alone.