Iran plans overseas farming in Russia, Brazil, Ghana
Iran plans overseas farming in Brazil, Russia and possibly Ghana to grow crops and secure a stable supply amid surging food prices and lingering drought.
The West Asian country, which relies on imports for key staples such as rice, wheat, corn and oilseeds, is seeking to boost supplies as surging global food costs and the most draconian sanctions ever imposed by the US, fuel inflation.
In recent years, consecutive governments have spoken of plans to lease arable land or buy stakes in overseas ventures in countries such as Kazakhstan, Brazil, Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Ghana, but it is not clear how many of those plans have been firmed up, if any.
Former agriculture minister Mahmoud Hojjati had once said that contracts for cultivation on nearly 800,000 to one million hectares in a number of countries had been signed and approved by the government.
"The overseas cultivation is on the agenda with Brazil and Russia, which could lead to the entry of virtual water into the country and the cultivation of water-intensive products such as livestock inputs in these countries," deputy agriculture minister for economy and planning Mohammad Qorbani said on Monday.
Amid the banking restrictions because of the sanctions, Iran has been experimenting with alternative ways such as barter to keep trade channels open with countries.
Qorbani said the first 100 days of the new government have marked initial agreements reached with Brazil, Russia, Norway and Pakistan to establish trade relations in the agriculture sector.
Last month, Iran and Pakistan signed their first barter trade agreement to exchange Pakistani rice with Iranian LPG, marking a watershed in a quest to overcome the biggest hurdle to business between the two big neighbors.
Food security is a key policy area for global state planners, and for Iran, it is additionally crucial in the face of a protracted drought where falling water tables are adversely affecting harvests and the basket of agricultural products is narrowing.