Potential war in Iran raises food security concerns

Potential war in Iran raises food security concerns

Frequent threats of Iran against Israel and discussions on a possible attack of the U.S. on Iran raise questions about consequences of a war in the region. Difficult situation in the Middle East may cause challenges with food security for Azerbaijan, but some analysts urge the government can avoid the problem.

According to Prof. Kamil Salimov, an expert on national security issues, if Iran gets into a war the Persian Gulf will be shut for civilian and military ships of Iran and the only connection to its ally, Russia, will be links across the Caspian Sea and an overland route through Azerbaijan. This being said, it is possible that Russia would try to put pressure on Azerbaijan in order to help its ally.

But Dr. Vugar Bayramov, head of the Center for Economic and Social Development (CESD), said in an interview with AzerNews that in terms of Azerbaijan’s food security Iran is not a deciding factor, because the volume of food products imported from Iran decreases each year and since 2011 goods imported from Iran are mostly produced domestically. This is also due to the construction and commissioning of warehouses for storage of agricultural goods.

In case of war Nakhchivan will be at risk

Bayramov believes that in case of war in Iran the main problem will be ensuring food security of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, considering the fact that Iran is the only way of overland transportation between Nakhchivan and the rest of Azerbaijan, and air transportation would be risky under war conditions in the region.

“One of the biggest problems in this regard would be the provision of Nakhchivan with fuel, because a significant factor in providing food security is energy, due to the fact that energy is used in the production process of foodstuffs. That is why in case of war Azerbaijan should try and provide Nakhchivan with the necessary energy and agricultural goods via Turkey,” Bayramov said.

The process of establishing energy cooperation between Turkey and Nakhchivan is in progress and one of the agreements signed between Turkey and Azerbaijan concerns importing natural gas from Turkey to Nakhchivan.

“Of course, it takes time and it cannot happen in the near future, but importing fuel and food from Turkey is possible. In case of war, the alternative way for Azerbaijan is to expand opportunities for import from Turkey,” Bayramov added.

Annual demand for grain in Azerbaijan

Food security in each country depends on how well it can provide itself with the necessary amount of food, the main indicator of which is the amount of grain stocks preserved by the state until the next harvest of crops. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the safe amount is considered to be the so-called “carryover stocks” of grain for 60 days (approximately 20% of grain consumed by the population of the country during the year). From September 18, 2012, the Cabinet of Ministers of Azerbaijan defined grain resources in the State Grain Fund. According to the decision, the State Grain Fund should have reserves of 500,000 tons of grain. The provision of such assets of the Fund is vested in the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, annual demand for grain in Azerbaijan is 3-3.2 million tons. Azerbaijan produces most of the volume, while the rest is imported from Russia and Kazakhstan.

Today, Azerbaijan fully meets its needs only in vegetables and fruits, which are also exported, and 80 percent of grain and meat.

In an interview with Trend news agency, Deputy Minister of Agriculture Bahram Aliyev said that according to the state program on ensuring provision of the Azerbaijani population with foodstuffs in 2008-2015, by 2015 Azerbaijan will be able to meet its demand for agricultural goods from domestic sources and work in this area is in full swing.

Aliyev also noted that the amount of subsidies provided by the government of Azerbaijan per hectare of arable land is about $200.

Araz Said

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