Agriculture has a substantial history in Iran. The domestication of the goat had taken place as early as 10,000 BC along the Iranian plateau. The windmill had also been invented in Persia during the 7th century for the first time. In the modern era, agriculture dates back in the 1820s (Amad 7). This was when Amir Kabir undertook various changes to the traditional agricultural system. These changes included the signing of collaboration contracts with other countries and importing modified seeds. The country’s one-third of the total surface is suitable for agriculture. However, this has not been actualized due to lack of adequate water distribution and poor soil. This has resulted to under cultivation. Iran has approximately 162.2 million hectares of land, but only 19 million hectares is being used for agriculture (Amad 16). That is approximately 12% of the land area. Currently, the agricultural sector constitutes 13.9% of the GDP. The agricultural products also form around 30% of the country’s non-oil exports. According to Food and Agriculture Organization, Iran ranks among top 7 countries producing 21 important agricultural products (Rubin 67). Iran is ranked first in production of pistachio, second in production of dates and fourth in apple production globally. Iran also boasts as the twelveth largest producer of wheat.
It is possible to cultivate a wide variety of crops, fruits and cereals among others in Iran. This is enabled by the multiplicity of climatic zones and the wide range of temperature fluctuations. There exist more than 2,000 plant species. Of this, only 100 are being used in pharmaceutical industries. Barley, white and rice are the major crops in the country. Total price production is around 2.2 million tons per year(Amad 53). Consumption on the other hand, revolves around 3 million tones. There has been the need to import rice from countries like Uruguay, Pakistan and UAE in order to meet this demand. In 2007, the country exported 600,000 tons of wheat out of the 15 million tons that were produced that year(Rubin 176).
When it comes to livestock, sheep tend to be the most popular. They are followed by goats, cattle, horses, donkeys among others. Poultry farming is practiced with the objective of obtaining meat and eggs. The infrastructure involved with the poultry sector has progressed in a rapid manner. There have been various transformations that have ensured the entire supply chain can be executed domestically. The dairy industry is also expanding, and the country tends to import a substantial amount of feed grain annually. Production of pig is not allowed in the country. This is due to the Islamic law that forbids it.
Iran has the potential to develop great fisheries due to the access to the Persian Gulf, the Caspian Sea, Gulf of Oman and other river basins. Commercial fishing came under the control of the government from the early 1950s (Amad 101). Various government-owned enterprises were established as a result. Caspian fish resources have been endangered in recent years. This is due to discharge of pollutants, off-season and illegal fishing, overfishing by other states among other unfavorable conditions. There are more than 200 fish species found in the Persian Gulf. Of this, 150 are edible. This includes prawns and shrimps.
The country’s forest area was around 11 million hectares in 2005. The Caspian region enjoys 1.5 million hectares of dense forest due to favorable climate and adequate rainfall (Sagheb-Talebi et al. 34). The forests are used for the production of timber meant for various purposes. This includes both hard and soft-wood. Though forests are nationalized and protected, destruction by the private sector is quite a routine. These aspects of destruction, mismanagement and limited forest areas have resulted in the importation of wood products and lumber. Forest fires also tend to destroy vast areas of the forests annually.
Agribusiness is quite popular in Iran too. In the 1960s, Iran nearly attained agricultural self-sufficiency. However, this aspect was not the same as from the late 1970s. Almost 65% of the country’s food had to be imported. This decline in productivity was blamed on the aspect of using modern fertilizers (Rubin 205). The fertilizers were believed to scorch the thin Iranian soil. Since this time, commercial farming has stepped into the place of subsistence farming. This has resulted in practices such as irrigation to ensure there is sufficient water for various agricultural practices. The gross value of products in the agriculture sector had reached $25 billion by 1997(Rubin 38). Currently, this sector is among the major contributors to the country’s economy.
The government tends to support agriculture in a variety of ways. Among them is by way of instigating subsidies. The government has subsidized most products to ensure affordability by people of different backgrounds and social status. The government purchases wheat from farmers at a pre-specialized price every year. This helps to protect the farmers from the seasonality of market prices (Sagheb-Talebi et al. 57). The government also instigates subsidies for the use of pesticides and fertilizers, improvements in production methods and agricultural research.
Iran’s market mechanism for the sector is not particularly developed. This is due to the numerous government interventions and the traditional nature of the agricultural sector. In an attempt to improve transparency and efficiency, the government has allowed agricultural products to be traded on the Iran Mercantile Exchange. More than 22 products are being traded.
The subsidies reform plan has been implemented, and experts are hopeful of many things. Among them is the reduced government intervention and price distortion of agricultural products. There is also an expectation that fundamental restructuring of the agricultural sector will take place. Liberalization of the market is being experienced currently. Here, the forces of demand and supply are being given the opportunity to dictate market prices.
Currently, there are various focus areas in the agricultural sector. Among them are low-interest loans for investment and financing in agro-industrial projects and agriculture. This is to ensure affordability for most farmers involved with different areas of agricultural production. Another area of focus is ensuring self-sufficiency with regards to the provision of national food requirements. This is a move meant to ensure attainment of food security in the country. Provision of agricultural equipment and machinery has also been identified as an area of focus. The emphasis is on local production by ensuring relevant technology has been transferred (Rubin 401).
Amad, Mohammad. Agriculture, Poverty and Reformin Iran (RLE Iran D). Taylor & Francis, 2012. Print.
Rubin, Barry. The Middle East a Guide to Politics, Economics, Society and Culture. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2015. Print.
Sagheb-Talebi, Khosro, Toktam Sajedi, and Mehdi Pourhashemi. Forests of Iran: A Treasure fromthe Past, a Hope for the Future. Dordrecht: Springer Verlag, 2014. Print.
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