Iran's "chicken crisis" is simmering political issue

Sun Jul 22, 2012 10:59am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Marcus George and Yeganeh Torbati

DUBAI (Reuters) - Earlier this month, Iran's national police chief ventured boldly into what has become known as the country's "chicken crisis." The feathers haven't stopped flying since.

The soaring price for a staple food that Iranians relish cooked with saffron, plums or pomegranates has become such a hot topic of public debate, and a sign of the sinking purchasing power of many Iranians, that Police Chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam felt it his duty to intervene.

He urged television stations to avoid broadcasting images of people eating chicken, saying such pictures could fire up social tensions, with perhaps unforeseen consequences.

"Certain people witnessing this class gap between the rich and the poor might grab a knife and think they will get their share from the wealthy," Mehr news agency quoted him as saying.

As far as is known, no one has gone to that extreme, but as Iran's economy struggles with erratic government management and international sanctions imposed over the country's disputed nuclear program, prices of food and fuel have jumped across the board in the past 18 months.

At around 65,000 rials, or over $5 at the official exchange rate, a kilo (2.2 lb) of chicken is now nearly three times the price it was a year ago. That makes it hard to afford for many in a country where gross national income per capita was about $4,520 in 2009, or $377 per month, according to the most recent estimate by the World Bank.

The surge in the price is mainly due to the exorbitant cost of importing chicken feed with Iran's weakened currency, which on the black market is more than 40 percent lower against the U.S. dollar than it was at the start of this year.

DINNER TABLES   Continued...

An Iranian boy looks at chickens for sale in Chicken Alley, a center for the sale of live birds in south Tehran October 18, 2005. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl