TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) -The Iranian government has so far bought a record 9.5 million tonnes of wheat from local farmers who experienced better crop yields this year despite a 30% drop in rainfall against the year before, an official says.
Iran has been pushing to boost production of wheat and other strategic products as part of its bid to cut dependency on foreign imports.
Last year, the government bought 8.8 million tonnes of wheat under the country’s scheme of state purchases from farmers at guaranteed prices but this year’s buys have hit a new record, according to Deputy Agriculture Minister Ali Morad Akbari.
“The guaranteed wheat purchases have surpassed 9.5 million tonnes and broken last year’s record, while rainfall has declined by 30% compared to last year,” he told Tasnim news agency on Wednesday.
Iran has 6.1 million hectares of land used for farming wheat. Two thirds of it is unirrigated, making the staple grain susceptible to drought in one of the world’s driest countries, with an average 250mm of rain a year.
Wheat is among the products dealing with people’s purchasing power in Iran where any disruption in supplies could impact their livelihood.
In the past few weeks, wheat prices have surged more than 20 percent on European and US markets on mounting worries over global wheat supplies.
Moreover, Iran faces fresh US sanctions and even though the country has never been barred from buying food, the antagonistic measures have made trade more difficult by hindering payments and ocean shipping.
Iran was largely self-sufficient in wheat a decade ago but it has emerged as one of the world’s biggest importers.
The country now seeks to return to the place it was, with the government providing business cover and incentives to wheat growers.
Those measures include imposing import duties on wheat in an effort to protect Iranian farmers from cheap imports and to prevent imported grain being re-sold to the government at higher prices.
Officials say Iran is already self-sufficient in wheat. Last October, the country exported 31,000 tonnes of quality durum wheat to Italy for the first time.
For years, Iran has been bartering locally-produced durum wheat with milling wheat. Last year, the country exported 300,000 tonnes of durum wheat.
Durum or macaroni wheat, used in pasta-making, is the hardest of all wheats, which is widely cultivated across the world.