According to the Head of International workshop on national rice development strategies for Central and West Asia (RRTC-CWA), Dr. Shahdi Komala, 54 % of total area for cultivation of rice in Central and West Asia is in Iran but the country accounts for 61% of the regions’ combined rice production. 25% further increase in rice production is needed by 2035 in order to meet, growing demand, achieve food security and reduce poverty in Central and West Asia, IRNA reported. IRRI predicted that rice consumption in the region will increase from around 9 million tons currently to 16.5 Million Tonnes (MT) by the year 2035. CWARice was officially established in 2010 at the Rice Research Institute of Iran in the city of Rasht in Iran’s northern Gilan Province. Its member states include Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The mission of CWARice is to conduct advanced rice research with an emphasis on new production technologies that will be required to adapt rice production systems in the region to climate change.
The two northern provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran are home to the majority of Iran’s paddy fields and are largely responsible for feeding rice to Iranians who consume 3.2 million tons of rice a year, of which more than 2.2 million tonnes are supplied by domestic farmers. These are the regions which are projected to have100% automation of rice harvest by the end of the sixth five-year development plan of 2017-22. According to the Director General of Grains and Staple Foods Office with the Ministry of Agriculture Kaveh Khaksar revealed that about 81% and 70% of rice harvest in the two provinces were mechanized in the last Iranian year respectively. Khaksar added that out of the 185,000 hectares of paddy fields in Mazandaran, 38,000 hectares went under mechanized rice planting. In Gilan, mechanized rice planting was carried out over 95,000 hectares from the total of 238,000 hectares of paddy fields.
According to Kambiz Abbasi, an official with the Ministry of Agriculture, the government of President Hassan Rouhani invested 6 trillion rials (about $156 million) on mechanization of rice production, which investment is “unprecedented”. He added that mechanization would cut rice harvesting costs by up to 70%. Abbasi also noted that in view of water shortage in Iran, the administration is not willing to expand paddy fields in provinces other than the northern Mazandaran and Gilan. However the Agriculture Ministry expects domestic rice production to increase by 10-15% in the current Iranian year, because of favorable weather condition and timely distribution of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, machinery and equipment among local farmers. The government periodically places a ban on imports during the harvest season to support local farmers. Import tariffs have increased from 22% four years ago to 40% at present for the same reason.