The agricultural sector in Iran is struggling with a big shortage of fresh water. Salinization of agricultural land also inhibits agricultural development in the country. For Dutch companies with knowledge of efficient agricultural water use, there are certainly opportunities in Iran. That is what agricultural council Hans Smolders said during the International Entrepreneurship Festival on 1 November in Barneveld.
Three-quarters of the acreage of Iran is located in the arid and semi-arid climate zone. The precipitation varies enormously, from 0 to about 2200 mm per year in the mountains. In large parts of Iran, agriculture suffers from a lack of good quality water.
FAO research water balance
The availability of water for agriculture, industry and human consumption is increasingly being compromised. This is also evident from a recent FAO study on the water balance in the Mena region (Middle East and North Africa). All Mena countries are faced with a water problem due to climate change and extraction, and that certainly also applies to Iran, says council Smolders.
He emphasizes that the Iranian government is aware of the water problem. More efficient use of the scarce ground and surface water is high on the agricultural agenda. According to Smolders, this is also evident from the sixth five-year plan of the Iranian government.
One of the goals in this multi-year plan is to expand the acreage of covered cultivation by 50,000 hectares. At the moment, that acreage is about 11,000 hectares. "In plastic greenhouses, huge reductions can be made in water use, while at the same time the production of horticultural crops is increasing substantially. There are opportunities for Dutch companies that are specialized in horticultural technology", says Smolders.
He also sees opportunities in Iran for the introduction of precision agriculture, where growers, by using sensors, satellite data and geo-information, can use water more efficiently. Only 10% of the agricultural acreage uses modern techniques such as drip irrigation. According to the agriculture council, that acreage will increase in the coming years. Dutch companies can respond to this.
Salt tolerant crops
According to recent studies, a quarter of the Iranian agricultural acreage has been salinated. This has an adverse effect on the yield per hectare. Smolders therefore sees opportunities for the introduction of salt-tolerant varieties, as have been developed by the Zilt Proefbedrijf Texel (Salt Farm Texel).
The storage losses in the food chain are large. The losses in the potato chain are up to 50%. According to Smolders, Iran is looking for companies that specialize in storage facilities, refrigerated transport and processing of agricultural products.