Iran Shoppers Queue For Promised Chickens While Prices Rise
The rising price of chicken has become a hot political issue in Iran. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Parliamentary Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf (Qalibaf) have both called for price controls.
The government says it began distributing up to 300 tonnes (300,000 kg) of chicken daily nationwide from Tuesday in a bid to lower prices. The supply is to sell at 180,000 rials per kilogram for fresh birds and 150,000 rials for frozen ones.
But actual prices on Wednesday ranged from 250,000 rials to 400,000 a kilo (2.2lbs), with more popular cuts, such the breast or thigh, rising to 600,000 rials ($2.40). These might seem reasonable prices compared with Western countries, but the income of an ordinary worker in Iran ranges from $100-150 a month. Nonetheless, state television carried pictures of long lines of shoppers.
Shoppers told state television on Tuesday that the cheaper frozen chicken was being distributed only in small amounts and only at selected state-owned supermarkets.
It is not just chicken prices that have soared in recent months. Government statistics last month showed that some food item prices increased by three-digit percentages in the last one year. Beef prices are now out of reach for many ordinary Iranians.
In November 2019 an increase in fuel prices led to nationwide protests and security forces killed hundreds. Iran's government is nervous about the potential of renwed unrest, trying to show it is proactive in dealing with rising prices.
Market specialists and the government’s critics concur that 300 tons a day is not enough to meet rising demand, as chicken is an important source of protein for Iranian families struggling with the economic crunch resulting from United States sanctions and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The government says it plans to distribute more chicken during the coming weeks. It has set up a market regulatory task force, but this has not been successful in ensuring shops follow set prices. Ghalibaf said on Wednesday that the price of chicken reflected the Rouhani administration’s incompetence.
Speculation as to the reasons for rising prices has been rampant. Anecdotal explanations blame private and public-sector companies for slaughtering and dumping birds to keep prices up, while some point to the rising cost of imported poultry food or irregularities that have prevented sufficient dollars being supplied by the government at favorable exchange rates for essential imports.
Habib Assadollah Nejad, an official at the Iranian Poultry Breeders Union, told the press that mismanagement and a lack of coordination had led to a shortage of feed at chicken farms. He said the market price of soya was over four times the government-set rate and the price of maize was twice the official rate, with both commodities in short supply.
Although inflation has been rising in recent years, with the International Monetary Fund projecting consumer price inflation of 30.5 percent for 2020, a particularly steep rise in the price of chicken began in September when chicken was 170,000 rials per kilo.