In lower-latitude countries like Iran, spring begins a little earlier than in its northern neighbors. For these countries’ agrarians, the end of February marks the beginning of a period that is challenging due not only to the quantity of work demanded but also to often unhelpful weather conditions.
Iran typically produces enough grain to supply its domestic market, but the grain processing sector depends heavily on imported raw materials. So, in 2017, Iran became the world’s third largest importer of barley after Saudi Arabia and China. Russia supplied a quarter of Iran’s imported raw materials.
Regarding the particulars of grain transportation between Russia and Iran, AsstrA-Associated Traffic AG talked with Iran Country Manager Mohammad Sadeqiharabadi.
AsstrA is an international transport and logistics holding company headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland. It has been operating in the sphere of logistics for more than 20 years. The company is represented in 16 European, Asian and CIS countries.
The full text of the interview is published on the Swiss company’s website:
ASSTRA: Do you note an increase or decrease in demand for grain transports between Russia and Iran? What is driving it? What forecast could you give for the market in the near future?
SADEQIHARABADI: I can definitely say that the volumes of grain purchased in Russia for further export to Iran are growing. Even requests from our customers point to this growth. Recently, we received practically simultaneous requests from two different clients for the transportation of barley and lentils from Saratov and Volgograd to Iran. The total volume of cargo transported was about 3,500 tons. And we regularly receive similar requests for grain transportation along this route.
This increase in interest in the Iranian market is primarily due to weather conditions.
At the end of February, the Iranian National Center for Crisis Management reported droughts across 97% of the country. Under such conditions, it is already extremely unlikely that the crop harvested in July will be able to meet domestic Iranian demand. That is not to mention the country’s flour mills, whose demand is only half satisfied by Iranian grain even in good years.
Therefore, in the near future, we expect an increase in shipment quantity and volume for not only barley and lentils but also wheat, rice and other crops.
In recent years, Iran has introduced several bans on imports of agricultural products, including wheat. How does this affect the volume of freight?
Iranian agricultural import restrictions are changing. In November of last year, the ban on rice imports was lifted. And just three weeks ago, Iran, Russia and Kazakhstan concluded a tripartite agreement on the wheat trade that allows the imported grain to be reexported after processing. The two-year-old ban on imports for domestic consumption remains.
In terms of logistics, do you transport grain via containers or trucks? Which option is more cost-effective for customers?
It depends on the place of loading. In the case of Saratov, it has been more affordable to transport barley by truck. Thus, we offered the client the option of transporting grain in 20-ton refrigerated trucks. In the case of Astrakhan, of course, we’ve chosen sea transportation, but with a special feature: we transport grain in bulk, not in containers. In general, the transport mode affects grain shipping costs and therefore the final consumer price of the grain.
What formalities and difficulties must you manage during the transportation of grains to Iran?
From a legal point of view, the transportation of grains requires a sanitary certificate, all relevant accompanying documents, and bills of lading. If the client does not want to spend time completing the documentation, we take care of it for him. Experience working with Iranian companies greatly eases and speeds up the transportation process.
From a practical point of view, the main difficulty for logistic operators handling the Russia-Iran route is the lack of cars, ships, or free customs warehouses in ports. But in our case, due to our extensive network of reliable contractors, AsstrA can always offer each customer the right delivery option.