Iran to Face Food Shortage, Tons of Medicine Stuck in Customs

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The head of Iran’s Commission Export Chamber of Commerce has warned that Iran can expect food shortages in the coming months. Meanwhile, a deputy in Iranian customs has said that 330 tons of medicine is currently stuck in Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International airport due to issues stemming from Iran’s multiple exchange rates.

Assadollah Asgarolladi, the head of the Export Chamber of Commerce and one of the wealthiest and most influential businessmen in Iran, said, “Unfortunately, with the events that have taken place recently, and the differences between the Central Bank, Ministry of Industry and Trade and Customs, during the next two months the country will encounter a deficit and shortage of goods.”

“A set of goods have been deposited in customs,” Asgarolladi said. “Most of the goods are perishable, and a heavy cost is paid to keep them refrigerated.” He continued, “There are 10,000 containers of food and medicine in the ports in the south of Iran and 5,000 containers in Port of Jebel Ali in Dubai that are waiting for this problem to be solved and to receive the sum they desire.”

Asgarolladi, who has been a critic of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s handling of the economy, said, “In my opinion the Central Bank, despite its promises, has committed sabotage and has failed.” He added, “Why doesn’t this current administration think about the livelihood of the people? In my opinion, the incoming administration must take steps … and make the responsibilities of this issue clear.”

Mohammad Reza Nader, a deputy with Iranian customs, has confirmed that 330 tons of medicine are currently stuck in Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International airport over exchange-rate issues involving the Central Bank, customs and the Ministry of Health. Iran has a multiple exchange-rate system which subsidizes different transactions based on how essential the government deems the goods to be.

According to the Fararu website, “Customs, because of a letter of agreement with the Ministry of Health, would give the clearance for medicine. However, the Central Bank and other banks complained about these steps and did not give permission for other medicine to be cleared.” The article continued, “Until now, customs has given the Ministry of Health and the Central Bank various recommendations on this issue but [they] have not yet received an answer.”

The article says that “Customs had suggested that the Ministry of Health pay 50% of the difference between the reference rate and the market rate and give the rest later to the Central Bank. However, the Ministry of Health could not pay the difference in exchange rate for the medicine.”

Fararu reports that “The Central Bank wants the importers of medicine to pay the difference in the exchange rate between the reference rate and the market rate, and then after that give the document of clearance to the importers.”

According to the head of Central Bank, Mansour Bahmani, “The responsibility to secure the currency differentials is up to the Government Trading Corporation, which is under the administration.” However, according to Fararu, “The director of the Government Trading Corporation believes that such an issue has not been anticipated in the budget, and the currency differentials for essential goods should be paid by the president’s deputy of Strategic Planning and Oversight.”