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German, French experts help Iran agriculture

21 May 2015 11:10


Representatives of German and French agricultural industries are in northeastern Iran to discuss transfer of technology and equipment, provincial officials say.

They have met agriculture ministry officials and private sector representatives in Mashhad to discuss future cooperation programs, they said.

“Given Iran’s distance from German and France, our first priority for cooperation is in the area of mechanization and agriculture equipment,” an agricultural official in the Razavi Khorasan province, Najafqoli Salehi, said.

He said the aim of cooperation with German and French industries is to lower finished costs of goods and transfer technology.

Salehi touched on traditional production of saffron in the province, saying there is enormous interest to use German and French help to optimize production and packaging.

Khorasan is one of the key agricultural provinces of Iran, with 2 million hectares of land under cultivation.

The province is the main producer of saffron, which is viewed the world’s most expensive spice.

Last year, more than 148 tonnes of saffron was exported from Razavi Khorasan, which constituted the bulk of Iran’s sales of the crop.

Around 85% of Iran’s saffron exports go to the UAE, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and India which process and re-export the crop in sleek packaging with better value-added.

Each kilo of saffron fetches up to $2,000 in global markets but for local Iranian producers, it barely pays for the labor.

Workers are harvesting saffron in Torbat-e Heydarieh in Razavi Khorasan Province. ©ISNA
While Iran dominates the global market for production of saffron, its share of the trade, put around $1.5 billion, barely surpasses $250 million.

Agriculture meanwhile accounts for 16% of Iran’s GDP and 25% of its non-oil exports.

Last year, Iran ran a negative trade balance of $5.5 billion in its agriculture sector which nonetheless improved against the year before when it stood at $8 billion, Minister of Agriculture Mahmoud Hojjati said.

The sector uses up 92% of the country’s water resources. Officials say 70% of water used in agriculture is wasted due to the prevalence of traditional irrigation methods.

Most Iranian farmers are still applying surface irrigation in which agricultural lands are inundated. Water is often pumped from deep underground, which has resulted in ruinous depletion of water tables.

On Wednesday, Minister Hojjati said low productivity, characterized by poor irrigation efficiency, was a serious problem of the sector.

The minister stressed the need for new methods including pressurized irrigation and mechanized farming to raise productivity.

The minister made the remarks in Iran’s East Azarbaijan Province where the Middle East’s largest saltwater lake has shrunk to 95% of its original size under irregular use of underground water by local farmers while scores of dams have mushroomed in less than a decade.

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