Iran allocates $5 billion to provide domestic market with staple foods

Azerbaijan, Baku, Feb.15 / Trend F.Mehdi/

Iran has allocated $5 billion to supply the domestic market with strategic staple foods, IRIB News quoted First-Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi as saying.

The administration has held several sessions to adopt policies to regulate prices in the markets, especially red and chicken meat as well as dried nuts prices, he added.

Under the current severe economic sanctions against the country, the administration is committed to supporting the low income strata of society, he said.

Some 23,000 tons of staple foods, including chicken meat, edible oil and butter, have been imported into Iran via Tehran customs in the first 10 months of the current Iranian calendar year (March 20, 2012-January 19, 2013), ILNA reported.

Some 842,000 tons of goods were also exported via Tehran customs, showing a 45 per cent rise year on year.

At the beginning of 2012, the United States and the European Union imposed new sanctions on Iran's oil and financial sectors with the aim of preventing other countries from purchasing Iranian oil and conducting transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.

U.S. sanctions entered into force on June 28, while EU bans on Iranian oil imports began on July 1.

In October, the EU approved another major package of economic sanctions on Iran.

On January 14, MP Abdolkarim Hashemi told the Fars News Agency that the Iranian administration is facing problems in providing money for paying cash subsidies to the public.

In such a situation, the second phase of the subsidy reform plan could not be implemented, he added.

"For the time being, the government is providing the necessary money out of sources other than freeing up prices based on the subsidy reform plan," he noted.

The subsidy reform plan pays out $37 to Iranians while eliminating subsidies for fuels and some commodities.

Nearly 74.5 million Iranians receive cash subsidies. So, the government has paid around 746 trillion rials (about $61 billion) as cash subsidies within the past 22 months, equalling 15 per cent of the national budget for the current Iranian fiscal year.

When the plan started in December 2010, it was expected to cause about $32 billion in liquidity. However greater demand for the cash subsidies and government's money borrowed from the Central Bank to pay for the subsidies led to a $45 billion liquidity.

The government implemented the first stage of its targeted subsidies plan towards the end of 2010 in an attempt to wean the country off food and fuel subsidies.

At that time, Ahmadinejad called it the "biggest economic plan of the past 50 years".

It allows the government to gradually slash subsidies on fuel, electricity and certain goods over the course of five years, with low income families being compensated with direct cash hand-outs.

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