Iran’s Rouhani forecasts bumper wheat output, says food supplies secure

Reuters – Iran expects to produce 14 million tonnes of wheat by March 2021, President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday, adding that the coronavirus outbreak had not hit its agriculture sector and Iranians did not need to worry about food supplies.

“Our forecast is some 3.5% to 4% increase in the agricultural products and we predict production of 14 million tonnes of wheat during this (Iranian) year,” Rouhani said during a televised cabinet meeting.

“This year our situation is better than previous years. Our people should not be worried about food supply … we have enough stocks,” Rouhani said.

Rouhani said Iran’s domestic grain production had been boosted by heavy rainfall that could cover its needs until the next Iranian year, which starts on March 21, 2021.

“We also forecast production of 2.6 million tonnes of rice and 1.7 million tonnes of sugar this year,” he said.

Shut out of international capital markets and facing a further hit to its finances with the collapse in oil prices on top of U.S. sanctions, Iran is struggling to shield its economy from the coronavirus pandemic.

Iran has the worst reported outbreak in the Middle East with a death toll of 4,683 and 74,877 infected cases.

U.S. sanctions, reimposed since 2018 when Washington exited the country’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers, have targeted Tehran’s oil sales and financial activities.

Food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies including animal feeds are exempt, but Iranian authorities say the sanctions have deterred some foreign banks from doing any Iranian business, including deals such as food shipments.

Iranian agriculture ministry data published by the country’s media showed Iran had produced nearly 14.5 million tonnes of wheat in the previous Iranian calendar year, 1.2 million tonnes more than the year before.

Esmail Esfandiaripour, an adviser to the agriculture minister, said on Sunday that “the COVID-19 pandemic is not going to affect the wheat harvest in Iran”.

“Iran’s wheat harvest is enough to make the county self-sufficient in the production of this strategic crop for the fifth year in a row,” he was quoted as saying by Iran’s state-run Tehran Times newspaper.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Alexander Smith)