Iran boosts agricultural exports amid alarming drought concerns
Baku, Azerbaijan, Oct. 12
By Fatih Karimov – Trend:
Iran exported 2.434 million tons of agricultural products, worth $1.415 billion during the first half of current fiscal year (March 20-Sept. 22).
The country’s agricultural exports increased by 15 percent in terms of volume, however the value of exports registered a fall by 9 percent, year-on-year.
Agricultural products shared 6.8 percent of Iran’s total exports in terms of value.
According to the latest statistics released by Iran’s agriculture ministry, which covers the first five months of current fiscal year (March 20-Aug. 22), pistachio worth $127.77 million topped the list of Iran’s agricultural exports, followed by ice cream worth $104 million, melons worth $97.8 million, tomatoes worth $73.25 million and cheese worth $72.5 million.
Meanwhile in terms of volume watermelon stood at top of the list with 503,400 tons (from 2.015 million tons of total agricultural exports).
Watermelon exports registered an 18 percent and 33 percent growth in terms of volume and value respectively.
Watermelon which is the main Iranian agriculture product in terms of weight is a water-consuming product and has raised criticism among some experts, who argue that Iran is actually exporting water, in a period which is suffering drought.
Located in an arid zone, Iran is just one of the countries facing severe water problems, such severe droughts have plagued the country over the last 40 years. The drought of 1992-2002 caused a major blow to agriculture. There were quotas imposed for fresh water in several cities, including the capital Tehran.
Meanwhile Iran’s agriculture ministry officials say the exported agricultural products use only 5 billion cubic meters of water per year.
According to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO), Iran's total annual water consumption is approximately 93 billion cubic meters, out of which about 92 percent is used in agriculture (86 billion cubic meters), 6.6 percent in municipality (6.18 billion cubic meters), and 1.2 percent in industry (1.12 billion cubic meters),
Up to 70 percent of water used in the agriculture sector is being wasted, Iranian officials say.
According to Nasser Karami, an Iranian physical climatologist, in the last 30 years Iran consumed 70 percent of its groundwater reserves, which were collected in a million years.Up to 62 percent of water used in the country's agriculture comes from groundwater reserves, according to the FAO.
For the time being, Iran's limited water reserves are strategic and agriculture is not an economic priority sector any more, Karami believes.
Some experts even believe that using limited vital water sources for the agriculture sector is not logical and Iran is better to import its agricultural demand rather than producing, which is more justified economically, considering the country’s depleting water reserves.
Certain experts such as Karami believe that drought will force Iran to shut down developing agriculture sooner or later.
Issa Kalantari, head of Iran’s environment protection organization, earlier warned that Iran's water crisis was more of a threat to the country than "Israel, the US or political infighting."
According to veteran politician, who served as agriculture minister years ago, if the water issue is not addressed, Iran could become a place where no one can live.
Amid all of these concerns, the country continues to produce agricultural products for exports, while the revenues share below 7 percent of the total non-oil exports’ value and seems to have no plan to cut that, given the fact that the weight of exported agricultural products has increased even by 15 percent.