Food shortages in Iran: “This could turn into an explosive situation”

Photo published on Flickr under a Creative Commons license by Paul Keller.
 
Chicken has become so expensive in Iran that people around the country are queuing for hours to buy government-subsidised frozen chickens – and even those are more expensive than fresh chickens were just a few months ago. This has prompted such anger that hundreds took to the streets in the northeast city of Nishapur on Monday, demanding an end to skyrocketing inflation.
 
The cost of chicken has more than doubled in two months, and more than tripled over the past year. In reaction, the government has set up centres to sell reduced-price poultry, but since their supply is limited it has done little to stave off public anger as prices continue to rise. Chicken has become such a sensitive issue that last week the country’s police chief asked TV stations not to air any programmes that show people eating it, for fear that reminding viewers of what they’re missing out on may stoke resentment. (Recently, an Iranian channel also reportedly censored the price of a mandarin orange in a film from the 1990s.)
 
The authorities blame the rising price of chicken on increased demand. Privately, however, those in the food industry say this is caused by increasingly strict Western sanctions on Iran, which make it difficult to import chicken feed. More broadly, the sanctions, aimed at curbing Iran’s weapons programme, have led to a collapse of the country’s currency, which in turn has pushed up the price of basic goods.
 
The protest in Nishapur was reportedly peaceful, with no arrests or reports of violence.
Contributors

“People are now standing in long lines just to get basic goods”

Fariba is a public servant in Tehran. She is a single mother.
 
I haven’t been able to buy a chicken for over a month. Chicken is part of our traditional diet; we use it in many of our meals. Since I work from 8am to 6pm, I am unable to go to the government-sponsored centres that offer reduced-price chickens, but I heard they’re frozen and of low quality. My neighbour went and stood in line for five whole hours to buy a chicken for 47,000 Rial (about 3,20 euros) per kilo. During the Persian New Year, we bought regular chicken for about 40,000 Rial (about 2,70 euros) per kilo; now, regular chicken – which only the rich can still afford – costs about 85,000 Rial (about 5,80 euros). So it’s more than doubled!
 
People are upset; I hear lots of co-workers in my office complaining not just about the cost of chicken but also meat, eggs, bread and milk. The prices are rising so quickly, we can’t keep up. Many are now standing in long lines just to get these basic goods. As a single mother, I work full-time in a government office and work an additional job part-time. Altogether I make about 8,000,000 Rials (about 540 euros) per month. With this salary, today, I can only buy basic necessities for myself and my little girl. The situation is getting worse and worse for all of us. And now it’s Ramadan - religious people who usually spend a lot during this time are getting really angry. [During the holy Islamic month or Ramadan, fasts are usually broken with elaborate dinners.] It seems that the whole population is fasting now, day and night!
 
People queuing to buy reduced-price chickens in Tehran. 
 

“With the presidential election just around the corner, this could turn into an explosive situation”

Shirin is a journalist in Tehran.
 
In factories, offices, and universities, not only is there no more chicken in meals, but the price of meals has increased. In universities subsidized meals have nearly doubled from last year. This is unheard of.
 
And food isn’t the only problem. We’re now hearing news that there will soon be big hikes in the prices of medicine, gas, and electricity, which is making the population very worried. Add this to social issues, like the crackdown on women not wearing hijabs in the hot summer weather, and it’s no surprise people are protesting more and more. Life is simply becoming intolerable. And with the presidential election just around the corner, this could turn into an explosive situation. [The election is set to take place in 2013.]
 
Cartoonists have made lots of fun of the warning against showing chicken on TV. In this cartoon, a father tells his son: "How many times do I have to tell you not watch films with chickens in them!" Cartoon by Mana Neyestani.
 
Iranian Internet users have also poked fun at the government's frozen-chicken scheme. On the left, Steve Jobes presenting the iPhone; on the right, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presenting the "iMorgh" ("morgh" means "chicken" in Persian).

Comments

Iran's green-chickens

Do you mean if there is going to be a Green-Chicken revolution in Iran? Well, dream-on!

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