Iran’s food imports are increasingly affected by financial sanctions. Food is not part of the sanctions regime and imports are possible, but facilitation of payment is the issue.
International traders shy away from the uncertainty and the difficulty of receiving payment in convertible currency. Transport insurance is also an issue.
It is a structural problem. Essentially the Iranian trading system has problems in coping with the new situation: Private traders stay away and the public sector cannot fill the void.
In the past, Iran has already entered barter arrangements with Pakistan or accepted payment in non-convertible Indian rupees.
In good years Iran is close to self-sufficiency in grains. But this year was not a good one and Iran had to resort to international markets on a large scale, not to mention more luxurious food items like poultry where there has been an import boom in the past fueled by oil revenues.
Iranian diets are becoming simpler and experts fear for increased malnutrition among poorer Iranians who cannot afford a more varied diet.
In its Beyond the Arab Awakening report IFPRI drew attention to the nature of malnutrition n the Arab world. The problem is not so much lack of calories, but of micro-nutrients like iron and vitamins.
By using stunting of children as an indicator, the report concludes that nearly all Arab countries face some form of food security challenge except for the Gulf countries.
This is in striking contrast to the Global Hunger Index of IFPRI et al. whose categories rather measure the lack of calories. (% of undernourished, % of underweight and child mortality below five).
In terms of lacking calories only Yemen, Sudan, and Mauritania show food insecurity. Some food security challenged countries like Egypt, that have severe malnutrition actually also have a large percentage of obese people (30 percent).
The malnutrition situation in Yemen is extremely alarming and is caused – as usual – by lacking access of poor people to theoretically available food. Children bear the brunt of the malnutrition crisis, which affects the development of their physical and mental abilities irrevocably.