By Jubin Katiraie
Iran’s state-run media have reported that the authorities are importing luxury fruits with billion-rial government loans offered to customers at chain stores in rich areas of Tehran at staggering prices.
According to reports, luxury fruit stores and fruit hypermarkets are examples of places where imported fruits end up, some of which are priced at 1.2 million rials (about $28 at the official exchange rate) and are found nowhere else in Iran.
Sold in chain stores with exotic names, these include names such as "Durian, African Red Pear, Super Banana Flower, Big Apple Custard, Jackfruit, Red Carnation, and Gooseberry, with unbelievable prices and are offered to the buyer as single items,” the state-run Young Journalists Club reported on 7 October.
"Tropical or African fruits, some of which are banned because of their impact on agriculture, by searching the Tajrish market and luxury shops in the north of Tehran you will find that the ban is not taken seriously,” the state-run daily Hamshahri wrote on 16 June 2019.
There are luxury fruits on the market for the consumption of wealthy people and government elements in a situation where poor and disadvantaged people are forced to collect spoiled or wasted fruits from fruit and vegetable markets.
It is clear that the entry of such exotic luxury fruits cannot pass through government customs without the involvement of government institutions and officials. The confession of "billion-rial loans" to import these luxury fruits proves this fact.
"A handful of importers import foreign fruits with billion-dollar government loans and sell them to people at high prices and ultimately cause losses to the consumer," the state-run Kasb-o-Kar website reported on 23 September 2019.
Regarding how these luxury fruits are imported into the country, the head of the Union of Orchard Owners said: "Luxury fruits certainly do not enter the country by porters while they are sensitive. If they aren’t transported with specialized transport facilities and refrigerator trucks or air-conditioning systems, these fruits would not be seen in the market in this way.”
Facilities provided by the Government and the Ministry of Agriculture for the importation of lucrative fruits are so clear that media affiliated with both factions of the government are asking why and how these goods were imported into Iran despite the official ban on the import of such products.
According to the official announcement of the government and the Ministry of Agriculture, except for a few tropical varieties of fruits, the import of fruit is forbidden, but nevertheless the markets are full of foreign fruits in different seasons with Turkish oranges, French apples, Chinese pears, Pakistani mandarins, and African grapes.
Imports of fruit, especially citrus to the country, have made big problems for the domestic fruit market, destroying the life of the orchard owners and pushing them into poverty while they cannot sell their products.
Officials in the government of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani claim that imported fruits on the market are smuggled, while large volumes of imported fruits on the market indicate that they are imported by containers or ships and cannot be smuggled.
The perennial problem of citrus orchards in the north of the country is the large volume of imported citrus fruits, but the government still permits citrus imports into the country. The government authorities allow the import of fruits while the northern orchard owners throw their fruit into the sea in protest to inappropriate government policies and unauthorized import of fruit," the state-run Raja News website reported on 6 March.
The unnecessary import of fruit takes place while short video clips are published every day on social media about the destruction of various types of fruit by farmers because of their inability to sell their products.
Orchard owners in some villages near Meshkinshahr have abandoned their apple gardens due to the low price of apples.