Iran International has obtained a letter from the intelligence ministry about eight ships carrying essential food that cannot be unloaded due to lack of foreign currency. 

The secret letter, signed by chief of staff of the vice president’s office Mohammad-Reza Mohammadkhani, contains an intelligence ministry’s bulletin about the content of cargo onboard eight ships stranded at a port in Bandar Abbas, on the Persian Gulf. The letter was written on February 21 and a copy of it was sent to the Governor's office in the province. 

In the letter, Mohammadkhani said that First Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber has already ordered the relevant authorities to immediately follow up and share the outcome with the intelligence ministry.

Iran’s government apparently suffers from a lack of foreign hard currencies essential to pay for imports. The Iranian rial has fallen 100 percent since September when nuclear talks with the West failed followed by antigovernment protests.

According to the document, the ships, which arrived in the Iranian waters from October to December, were ready to unload but the Central Bank of Iran has not provided the needed foreign currency to release them. Seven of the vessels carry shipments of wheat weighing about 435,000 tons, the other one is loaded with about 42,000 tons of soybean oil. 

In the bulletin, the intelligence ministry also provided details about the names and amount of cargo of each ship as well as the exact date of their arrival at the harbor, but it did not mention how much currency is needed to unload the ships. 

In another letter that was obtained by Iran International, Mohammad Kazemi, the deputy commander -in-chief of the IRGC’s intelligence organization had warned Mokhber of the perils of ships piling up at the ports. He expressed concerns that a lack of food security in society may lead to further protests. 

First Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber

Moreover, another letter revealed a briefing by the secretary of Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani about a meeting with food importers and other officials of the agriculture ministry. Warning the government of looming food shortages and higher prices, Shamkhani expressed concern about prices of animal feed, particularly warning that prices for maize, barley and soybean meal will rise and will affect the production of poultry, eggs, red meat, milk and dairy products. He said the prices of soybean meal will probably double in the next few weeks, leading to a jump in the cost of meat.

Earlier in the month, Iran’s Customs Administration said that at least eight million tons of essential goods have been piling up on ships anchored off the country's southern ports mainly due to payment issues. The deputy head of Customs said that the goods, a large part of which are food and animal feed, cannot be unloaded also due to lack of permits necessary for them to be cleared. Some of the essential goods need three or four permits from the Ministry of Health, Standards Agency and Plant Protection Agency, which oversees the quarantine processes. He said that about 1,800 to 2,000 trucks are being loaded every day and transferred from Imam Khomeini port, but the number of the trucks does not seem to be enough to avoid the blockage.

In January, Iran’s judiciary chief Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei said tens of ships have arrived in territorial waters of the country, but the Islamic Republic cannot unload them therefore the country must pay fines for the delay in discharging cargos.


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