By 1987, eight years after the Revolution, there had been no progress toward agricultural self-sufficiency. By the end of the first year following the 1979 Revolution, agricultural output had fallen by 3.5 percent, and it continued to decline, except for those growing seasons characterized by above-normal rainfall, such as FY 1982 and FY 1985. Sugar, wheat, cotton, and rice production increased in FY 1982, whereas wheat, barley, and rice production increased in FY 1985. Iran was the largest world supplier of pistachios, with 95,000 tons produced in 1982 to 1983 and 97,000 tons in 1986. The war did not inhibit the production of pistachios, which are grown in south central Iran.
Overall grain production increased throughout the 1970s, peaking in the late 1970s and again in the early 1980s and decreasing somewhat by 1985. Wheat is Iran's main grain crop; its production increased in the early 1980s from that in the 1970s, along with that of barley.
Wheat is a staple for most of the population. Bread is the most important single item in the Iranian diet, except in certain parts of the Caspian lowlands where rice is more commonly grown. Wheat and barley are planted on dry-farmed and irrigated lands and on mountain slopes and plains. Wheat is used almost exclusively for human consumption, and barley is used mainly as animal feed.
Rice is the only crop grown exclusively under irrigation. The long- grain rice of Iran grows primarily in the wet Caspian lowlands in the northern provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran, where heavy rainfall facilitates paddy cultivation. Population growth and the rising standard of living stimulated production of the high-quality rice that could be used for export. Although the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development sought to develop rice as an export crop as early as 1977, by the end of that year 326,000 tons of rice had to be imported to meet domestic needs. In 1985 rice imports increased 3 percent over the previous year's 710,000 tons.
Other grain imports fell in 1985 by 43 percent compared with 1984 levels. Wheat, flour, and feed grain imports declined as output increased.
During the early and mid-1970s, sugar output increased annually at a rate of 5 to 6 percent, but consumption rose at a rate of 10 percent or more. With an increased production of beet and cane sugar in the early 1970s, it was expected that Iran would export sugar by 1977. Instead, 300,000 tons of raw sugar were imported that year. To supplement sugar production, the government in 1976 initiated a large beekeeping and honey-processing operation at a site near Qom, which produced about 2,000 tons of honey annually.
The production of raw sugar decreased from 687,000 tons in 1976 to 412,000 tons in 1985. Sugar production dropped to a low of 380,000 tons in 1980.
Sugar cane production increased from about 1.7 million tons in FY 1981 to about 2 million tons in FY 1983. Sugar beet production, however, declined by 15.5 percent, from 4.3 million tons in FY 1982 to 3.7 million tons in FY 1983.
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