Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Food Prices Skyrocket in Iran

Iran’s Central Bank has released a chart which shows a tremendous rise in the price of most basic foodstuffs in Iran during the past year.

Persian, like Hebrew and Arabic, is read from right to left and so, from the right, the columns are:

Groups and Commodities / Unit / This Week (rials) / Percent Change over the Past Week / Percent Change Since the Same Week Last Year

Among the food groups on the right hand column: (1) dairy, (2) eggs, (3)rice, (4) grains, (5) fresh fruits, (6) fresh vegetables, (7) red meat, (8) chicken, (9) sugar, (10) tea, and (11) vegetable oil.

Without translating the whole chart, a few items should worry the regime. The price of chicken has skyrocketed 57.1 percent, and the price of red meat has increased 39 percent (though beef has increased 48.5 percent). Vegetarians will not be immune: The price of vegetables has, on average, increased 78.6 percent, and “leafy vegetables” have more than doubled in price. Only the price of potatoes has declined. Budget conscious Iranians—and most are nowadays—will be loading up on peaches, because that’s the only fruit which is now cheaper than it was a year ago. Few Iranian meals will be complete without rice, and that too is going to hit the pocketbook. And, as the baking of bread has shifted to state-owned factories putting many mom-and-pop bakeries out of business, Iranians–many of whom take their bread very seriously–complain about declining quality.

The increase in food prices has far less to do with sanctions than it does to basic regime mismanagement of the Iranian economy. Importantly, when the economic going gets tough in Iran, Iranians hold their government accountable and seem impervious to regime attempts to pin the blame on sanctions or outsiders. Iranians who travel to the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Turkey, and even Afghanistan see that even poor citizens of those countries have an easier time feeding their families. Ayatollah Khomeini used to quip that the Iranians wouldn’t have a revolution over the price of a watermelon, but as even the price of those have gone up 12 percent, the current regime should hope he was wrong.