An official of the Revolutionary Guard in Fars Province on Saturday said the Guards' intelligence agents have seized a big quantity of limes "hoarded for sale at a higher price".
According to the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) Colonel Jalal Yar-Mohammadi said the IRGC Intelligence Organization has seized 1,200 metric tons of hoarded limes in Jahrom in Fars Province which is one of Iran's largest citrus-producing regions. The fruit kept in cold storage facilities was seized for redistribution across the country, he said.
The prices of limes, lemons, citrus limetta (sweet lemons), ginger, bananas, and garlic have increased considerably since February when the first cases of coronavirus deaths were reported in Iran. Besides culinary uses, these fruit and vegetables are thought to fortify the immune system against coronavirus while the juice of sweet lemons is also a traditional remedy for bringing down high fevers. Bananas and ginger are imported but citrus fruit and garlic are home-grown.
The rising price of some fruits and vegetables in the past two months has prompted government agencies, including the Judiciary, to intervene to regulate the market and make these items available to the public at reasonable prices.
According to Mizan Online, the news agency of the Iranian Judiciary, five wholesalers who have the monopoly for limes in Iran are releasing only 30,000 kilos of limes to the market daily instead of the usual 200,000 kilos, to keep the prices high.
In the case of limes the Consumer Protection Organization appealed to the Judiciary. By the request of the Chief Justice Ayatollah Ebrahim Raeesi the Revolutionary Guard undertook the task of locating the much-in-demand citrus fruit and seizing it for redistribution, Mizan Online reported. However, the quantity seized could supply demand for just a few days, per 200-ton daily consumption.
The Intelligence Organization of the Revolutionary Guard is a security-intelligence outfit which usually chases political dissidents but in some cases also carries out operations related to "economic corruption".
Prices of food items in Iran are highly regulated by the Consumer Protection Organization. In February 2007 an increase in the price of tomatoes, also an important ingredient in Iranian cuisine, caused a political uproar and the matter was even taken up with the Parliament. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian President at the time, claimed that the "enemies" were responsible for the hike in the price of tomatoes.