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Iranian traders press for lifting of seasonal ban on rice imports

File photo shows a man inspecting bags of rice in stacks inside a warehouse in Iran.

Traders are urging the Iranian government to lift a seasonal ban on rice imports amid a reported shortage that has caused prices of the domestic rice crop to soar.

Head of Iran Rice Importers Association (IRIA) said on Tuesday that a tariff system should gradually replace the current four-month ban on rice imports which covers the harvest season in the country from late July to late November.

“We are facing a huge increase of about 80% in price of domestic rice and consequently a price hike for foreign rice,” said Abbas Tavakoli, adding that prices had surged mainly because of the seasonal ban on imports.

Iran normally relies on rice imports from India and other countries in Asia to regulate a domestic market which is dominated by the high-quality rice grown in northern Iran.

Indian rice prices started to increase last year when the Iranian government dismantled a system which used to offer foreign currency at a highly subsidized rate to importers of staples and basic goods.

However, demand for foreign rice has rebounded since the start of the harvest season this year when prices of some varieties of the Iranian rice nearly doubled just as the government started to implement its seasonal ban on imports.

Speaking in a meeting of traders with senior Iranian government officials, Tavakoli said that Iran should import up to 140,000 metric tons of rice per month if it wants to avoid a shortage that can push the prices up.

Tavakoli said that the IRIA had proposed to the Iranian agriculture ministry that the length of the seasonal ban on rice imports be halved to two months starting this year and then abolished for good from next year.

He insisted a tariff regime rather than the seasonal ban would better address issues facing both the consumers and growers of rice in Iran.

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