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Dubai: Prices of food items from Iran such as pistachio, saffron, raisins, fresh fruits, dates, vegetables and other imports are likely to rise in the near term, say local retailers.

Amid Covid-19-related tightening of cross-border travels and news of Dubai cancelling flights to and from Iran – local Iranian retailers are said to be stocking up on food imports from the country as they fear this may affect the flow of goods in the near term.

“At the moment we are still receiving food shipments from Iran," Mehdi Kaha Bazi, an Iranian trader who runs a retail shop in Al Ras, Dubai. "But we don’t know how long this will continue."

"With Ramadan coming up and the demand for dry fruits soaring, we (local Iranian retailers) in UAE are stocking up on dry fruit and other food items that are popular in UAE from Iran. We have to ensure there is enough supply for the next few months especially during Ramadan,” said Bazi added.

Stores in the Spice Souq sell a variety of spices, herbs, dry fruits, frankincense Image Credit: Francois Nel/Gulf News

Food import data from Iran into UAE

According to UN Comtrade, the UAE imports nine key food products from Iran.

In 2018, UN Comtrade stated that key food imports from Iran into UAE stood at over $130 million. The key food importing items included:

  • Dates — fresh and dried (18,473.08 million tonnes valued $7.7 million
  • Kiwi fruit (3,509.23 million tonnes valued $1.46 million
  • Grapes – dried (11,146.03 million tonnes valued $17.19 million)
  • Apples – fresh (34,721.98 million tonnes valued $37.56 million)
  • Tomatoes – fresh / chilled (18,557.26 million tonnes valued $10.53 million)
  • Other leguminous vegetables, shelled or unshelled, fresh or chilled (118,994 million tonnes valued $38.26 million
  • Cucumbers and gherkins – fresh and chilled (4,528.98 million tonnes valued $0.47 million)
  • Mushroom of the genus agaricus – fresh and chilled (779.19 million tonnes valued $1.66 million)
  • Guts, bladders & stomachs of animals (other than fish), watermelons – fresh (1,42,181.04 million tonnes valued $16.04)
Dates are a key import from Iran into UAE Image Credit: Ahmad Ramzan / Gulf News

Local traders hoarding 

Dhananjay Datar, owner of Al Adil Trading also prices of dry food items from Iran will go up slightly. He added while retailers in the UAE are soaking in on all the latest updates regarding flight cancellations and other precautionary measures taken against Covid-19, prices of food imports from Iran will fluctuate.

“At the moment, traders are hoarding. Once that settles, prices too will settle.”

He said: “The main foodstuff products that are imported from Iran are pistachio, saffron, raisin, among other food products. While restrictions to import from here will have an impact, there are alternate markets like India, Turkey, US which can meet the requirements.

"The quantity of saffron, pistachio, raisin being imported are reasonably high. When the products come from alternate markets, prices are bound to see a little increase temporarily. This is expected. Soon we will see the prices stabilising. At the moment some traders are hoarding, anticipating a hike in price.

"But chances of this happening in the market is very negligible. The market will be able to overcome the current situation sooner or later. There is no need for any undue concern,” he added.

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Prices of dry fruits items from Iran likely to go up near term Image Credit: AFP

Alternate markets available

According to Datar, there are alternate markets for dry fruits and veggies imported from Iran. "India, Turkey, the US can meet deficit from these countries."

Flights update

Last week a Dubai Airports spokesperson said flights to and from Iran have been suspended based on directives from the UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).

"All passengers arriving on direct flights from Tehran will receive thermal screening at the airport by Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and its Airport Medical Centre team," said the statement issued by Dubai airports. There are 9 daily flights between Dubai and destinations in Iran, excluding Tehran.

Customers affected by the suspension have been urged to contact their airlines directly for details on rebooking.