October 21, 2020
Local reports indicate a shortage of bread in at least seven Iranian provinces with bakers saying they cannot afford flour at current prices.
A shortage of bread was initially reported by locals in West Azerbaijan province, northwestern Iran in the first week of October.
The shortage of bread and flour has now spread to several provinces including West Azerbaijan, East Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, Tehran, Razavi Khorasan, Alborz and Isfahan.
According to the state-run ISNA News Agency, photos and footage of long lines outside of bakeries in some provinces and the closure of other bakeries have raised concerns of a shortage of bread among Iranians. According to ISNA, the Head of the Traditional Bread Union denied the reports and claimed that there was no shortage.
Bijan Norouz Moghadam told ISNA that the reason behind the shortage was a delay in the transport of flour to bakeries.
“A transportation company used for the transport of flour to the bakeries complained about the low freight rate. Now this issue has been solved, and flour should reach bakeries on time,” he said on October 14.
Also denying the bread shortage, government spokesman Ali Rabiei, said the government had “analyzed the shortage of bread issue in some provinces” and that the results were “nothing to worry about”.
“In general, we don’t have any shortages in the country. Our self-sufficiency in wheat is still in place, and our production has increased. We also have the necessary reserves,” he added on October 13.
Despite this, the bread shortage continues to be a problem in Iran.
A report by Tejaratnews News Agency cited bread shortages in Urmia, northwestern Iran.
Tejartnews said bakers were blaming officials for reducing flour quotas while officials accused bakers of profiteering by selling flour in the free market.
The bakers, who blame the government say their flour quota does not correspond with demands. Bread consumption is high in Iran, with consumers buying an average 125kg per person, four times the global average. Due to extreme poverty, between 45 to 50 percent of the population rely on bread as their main source of calories.
Bakers also say the price of bread is too low, while their expenses are high due to inflation and COVID-19.
Social media reports indicate that consumers are only given no more than five pieces of bread at a time. Bakeries close early and the ones that are open have 3 hour waiting lines.
Locals in Isfahan’s Gaz city in central Iran said on October 18 that they had to wait for three hours in bakery lines to get three pieces of bread.
Other local reports from Tabriz, northwestern Iran indicated that several bakeries had closed shop, putting up notices that they did not have bread due to a shortage of flour.
“It’s been over a week since we ordered flour, but nothing has been delivered. I either have to buy flour from a middle-man or close the shop,” a Tabriz baker said.
“I get the subsidized 35,000 toman (around $1) flour from a middle-man at 100,000 tomans (around $3), so how can I not raise prices? I can’t pay the extra flour price myself,” said the Tabriz baker.
According to local reports, several bakeries in Damavand, Parand, Shahriyar, and Mahdasht in Alborz and Tehran provinces were also closed.
The shortage is not only limited to large cities. A report from Golbahar, a small town in Khorasan, northeastern Iran, said that at least 10 bakeries were closed, and that 50-100 people were waiting in line at open bakeries. Another report from Gaz in Khorasan said that bread was rationed or sold at very high prices.