Economy, Domestic Economy

The Conundrum of Aging Iranian Farmers

Agriculture accounts for 20% of all jobs in Iran on average.Agriculture accounts for 20% of all jobs in Iran on average.

The average age of Iranian farmers stands at 53 years and if 60 is taken as the retirement age, the country will face a shortage of farmers in less than a decade.

Based on figures released by the Statistical Center of Iran, some around 4 million farmers are active in the country who are, according to the head of Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organization, advancing in years and will quit farming soon.

“At present, agriculture accounts for 20% of all jobs in Iran on average. In some provinces, the figure amounts to 30%. As such, the sector has no extra capacity for generating new jobs. The only reasonable solution is to replace aging farmers with youths,” Eskandar Zand was also quoted as saying by the Persian daily Shahrvand.

The official noted that drought is another problem that causes farmers to lose their jobs and prevents youth from entering the field, which hurdle needs to be overcome through the use of technology and attraction of investment.

Zand, who is also a deputy agriculture minister, said out of every 1 billion rials (more than $26.7) worth of economic investments made in the country, only $1,335 go to the agriculture sector.

“Agriculture cannot be undertaken without a sufficient amount of initial capital. Farmers have to be supported in this respect,” he said.

Another problem in rejuvenating the sector, pointed out by Zand, is the lack of expert and efficient workforce.

Ali Khanmohammadi, managing director of the National Assembly of Agriculture Experts, said agriculture graduates have the relevant knowledge but no skills.

“Agricultural education must start from the farm. An agro engineer has to be familiar with different types of seeds. What good comes from an agriculture graduate that cannot even work with a tractor,” he said.

Khanmohammadi noted that being a farmer does not return much profit, as the sector lacks productivity.

“Therefore, the educated youth are reluctant to enter the business. This, in turn, worsens productivity and the farmer age issue, and the vicious circle goes on,” he concluded.

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