Iran’s wheat output far below its potential
According to agricultural experts, Iran’s wheat production has fallen far below its potential levels. As a result, the country must purchase massive quantities of foreign wheat to satisfy its growing population.
Prior to the 1979 revolution, wheat output stood at seven million tons per year. Since then the nation’s population has nearly doubled. Wheat production, however, does not reflect this increase.
While some industry sources believe that local purchases should stand at eight million tons, the Iranian government had purchased only 4.5 million tons of wheat from local farmers last year. At the same time it imported 10.1 million tons from foreign markets, reported Korashhan newspaper.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, more than ten million tons of wheat were produced in 1997. Production dropped to around 8.6 million by the year 2000, and is expected to reach 12.5 million tons this year.
These figures are considered far lower than what they should be, according to the director of agricultural promotion at the Teachers’ Training University, Gholamreza Pezeshki.
The main reason for this low level of production, according to the government, is lack of farmers’ precipitation. However, this excuse only goes so far, says Pezeshki. The prevailing water crisis only effects dry farming wheat, not irrigated crops, which account for 60 percent of all wheat fields.
Rather, poor agricultural policies and wasted resources are the main contributors to the low output. Firstly, many farmers continue to cultivate their fields using traditional means of farming, instead of taking advantage of modern agricultural advances.
Government subsidized supplies and resources also add to the problem, as recipients usually misuse them. As a result, many resources, including pesticides, seeds, fertilizers and other agricultural products are used inefficiently and wasted.
In addition, water resources, already in jeopardy of further depletion, are grossly mismanaged, according to Ahmad Khasahmadi, from the committee for Agricultural and Natural Resources. Of the already limited amounts of water allotted to irrigation, nearly 70 percent is wasted by farmers. Furthermore, government subsidies to agricultural consumers also play a role in the nation’s poor wheat yield. As these subsidies increase, producers naturally reduce their output.
Iran holds sufficient resources to raise its current wheat output. Past experience has shown that any state investments in this sector have always resulted in returns several times the initial investment. Current policies of subsidies and imports must be reevaluated if Iran’s reliance on foreign sources for wheat is to be decreased. ― (MENA Report)
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)