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US rice import draws criticism in Iran

24 December 2015 10:45



A US ship reportedly unloading 10,000 tonnes of rice in the Iranian port of Chabahar has become a lightning rod for criticism in a country which is seeking to curb imports of American goods. 

The cargo, ordered by Government Trading Corporation (GTC) of Iran and loaded 40 days ago in the US, is currently being discharged at the Shahid Beheshti jetty in Chabahar, the Fars news agency reported, citing an informed source.

“This move contravenes the law banning imports of American consumer goods and also contradicts a directive by Industry Minister (Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh),” the source said.

Nematzadeh sent the directive to his deputies in November, ordering a blockade on imports of consumer goods from the United States to go into effect.

The order was in line with a letter by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei to President Hassan Rouhani, urging the government to develop an “economy of resistance” and check imports of US-made goods.

Earlier this month, the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran published the names of 227 US-made goods subject to an import ban and sent the list to authorities in all the 31 provinces across the country to implement it.

Iran also had a ban in place on imports of rice in order to protect domestic farmers but officials have said the country needed to make new purchases to adjust the market.

Rice paddies on the Iran-Azerbaijan border

GTC Managing Director Ali Qanbari has said the purchase of rice from the US had been ordered before the ban on American goods.

Under the June 24 order, Iran has bought 60,000 tonnes of long grain rice from the US, to be carried in three shipments, of which 10,000 tonnes has already arrived in the country, Fars quoted Qanbari as saying.

The Iranian daily Javan censured the deal.

“While we are faced with restricted foreign exchange resources and purchases of foreign rice…were not needed at all, the Ministry of Agriculture Jihad has suddenly decided to import rice — and that from America,” the paper said.

“The Government Trading Corporation has burnt its fingers with this overzealous move even though the Islamic Republic of Iran’s position on America is absolutely clear,” the Afkar News wrote.

Iran needs about 3 million metric tons of rice a year, with the deficit bought from abroad.

According to director general of Agriculture Ministry’s grains and basic crops Kaveh Khaksar, Iranian farmers produced 1.8 million tonnes of rice in the current crop year.

The country also imported 400,000 tonnes of rice in the first six months since March, with an international tender put out for additional purchases, officials have said.

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