TEHRAN: Iran will have reduced its cigarette imports from four billion to two billion before the end of the current Iranian year (March 20, 2018).
Speaking at the 28th Working Group session of the Headquarters to Combat Smuggling of Goods and Foreign Exchange, Ali-Asghar Ramzi, the head of Iranian Tobacco Planning and Supervision Center, put Iran’s current annual cigarette consumption at about 55 billion, according to Tobacco Reporter.
A number of reports in Iran last year described how the country was aiming to become self-sufficient in leaf-tobacco and cigarette production.
Ramzi said 1,300 direct and more than 4,000 indirect employment opportunities had been created already in 10 cigarette production plants in the country.
However, in October, doubt was cast on claims that Iran would become self-sufficient in the production of leaf tobacco within five years.
It’s been reported that while the designers of Iran’s Sixth Five-Year Development Plan (2017-22) had envisioned Iran becoming self-sufficient, the plan seemed unlikely to be fulfilled given the challenges facing Iran’s tobacco industry.
The plan had set the goal of producing between 40,000 and 50,000 tons of tobacco a year.
But, according to Ramzi, only 20% of this amount were being produced in Iran. The rest was imported from Latin America, Africa and Asia.
While it makes sense to increase local production since imported tobacco is said to be 30-40% more expensive than is domestic tobacco, the problem is that former tobacco farmers, who now grow rice or other agricultural products, are not willing to switch back to tobacco.
In August, another report said Iran was expected this year to manufacture more than 90% of its cigarettes locally.
The report said domestic cigarette production had reached 45 billion in the most recent Iranian year (March 2016-17), close to 15 billion more than the production of the year before.
According to the August story, Ramzi had said plans were underway to increase local cigarette production to 50 billion this year.