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Government In Iran Struggles To Provide Affordable Food Amid Shortages

File photo - President Hassan Rouhani (center), head of Judiciary Ibrahim Raeisi (left), and Speaker of Parliament, Ali Larijani in a meeting of Islamic Republic leaders to sort out economic problems. June 09, 2019.

The Iranian parliament held a session behind closed doors on Monday, July 29, to discuss the problem of providing essential goods, including food, as shortages and high prices affect many parts of the country.

In the closed-door session attended by the Minister of Agricultural Jihad, the problems related to providing essential products, including rice, and wheat, as well as cattle feed and preparation of agricultural lands were discussed, the speaker of the parliament, Ali Larijani, said.

Without further elaboration, Larijani also asserted that the Minister of Agricultural Jihad was assigned to present the parliament with a plan aimed at making the country "self-sufficient" in producing essential goods.

Since re-imposition of the U.S. sanctions on Tehran, the Islamic Republic has been struggling with rising food prices and shortages.

The main reason behind the problem is the fact that many exporters receive highly subsidized dollars to buy essential goods, but sometimes they do not deliver.

Therefore, President Hassan Rouhani's administration is running out of options to rein in skyrocketing prices of staple foods.

Meanwhile, the director of the Ministry of Health's department of nutrition improvement in Iran says, eight provinces of the country are suffering from food shortage.

Speaking to the state-run Iran Labor News Agency (ILNA), Zahra Abdollahi has named seven of the eight provinces, Sistan&Baluchestan, Kohgiloyeh&Boyer Ahmad, Ilam, Hormozgan, Khuzestan, and Southern Khorasan, struggling with acute food shortage.

"The eight provinces are suffering from food shortage and malnutrition problems along with other types of deprivation," Ms. Abdollahi lamented.

Referring to the high death-rate caused by noncommunicable diseases, including malnutrition, in the listed provinces, Abdollahi asserted, "Two years ago, the rate was 76%, but it has currently increased to 82%."

Representatives of the most deprived provinces in parliament have repeatedly raised the alarm about malnutrition and food shortage in their constituencies.

An MP from Zahedan, the capital city of Sistan &Baluchestan, Alim Yar Mohammadi insisted last year that 75% of the province's population was struggling with food poverty.

"The people of this province's villages don't have adequate drinking water or even bread. By any standards they are living in deplorable conditions," Yar Mohammadi said.

"This province is home to all kinds of diseases, and nobody can deny it. Even in the city of Zahedan more than 350,000 people are suffering from shortage of running water, and water trucks provide for many parts of the city," Yar Mohammadi added.

Referring to parliament's Monday session, the spokesman of Majles board of directors, Assadollah Abbasi, said, "Based on the current governmental budget, Iran needs nearly 10.9 million tons of wheat, and 3.25 million tons of rice every year."

According to Abbasi, the government is obliged to spend up to $14 billion of its oil income to help people obtaining their essential goods.

Nevertheless, the price of food is continuously increasing across the country, causing instability for families trying to budget for rent and food. Furthermore, profiteers raise prices daily, and consumers are forced to stock up before the next price hike.