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Iran imports tons of barley after drought hampers production

TEHRAN, Iran, May 30, 2000 (Reuters) -- Iran said it had imported 1.1 million tons of feed barley and needed to buy more to make up for falling production after a severe drought.

"We need three million tons of barley a year, two million tons of which are supplied by domestic producers and the rest imported," newspapers quoted Behruz Jalai, an official of the construction ministry, as saying.

"But given the drought, we need to import more. The 1.1 million tons imported does not meet the needs of livestock farmers and we have to increase imports," said Jalali, whose ministry is in charge of rural development.

Iran said earlier this month it would import an additional 300,000 tons of feed barley to help livestock owners hit by the drought. It has given no time-scale for any of the imports.

European grain traders said last week that Iranian private importers had bought 100,000 tons of optional origin feed barley for July-August shipment.

The Iranian government buys barley and other grains from local farmers at fixed prices under a plan to encourage domestic production.

But Jalali said the government had been sold "not even a kilogram" of local barley this year, which began on March 20.

Iran has put the damage from the drought at $1.7 billion, including $500 million in livestock losses.

The government has been buying under-nourished livestock from farmers in drought-hit regions or been moving them to other parts of the country.