organised smugglers are exploiting Iran’s deepening economic woes by spiriting away vast quantities of chicken so they can then be sold at inflated prices on the black market, officials have said.In the latest twist to what has become known as the “chicken crisis”, Iranian police say have discovered 60,000kg (60 tonnes) of live and slaughtered poultry hidden in various locations throughout the country over a 15-day period.
The discovery comes amid a bitter political furore over the soaring cost of chicken, which has risen more than threefold to up to 80,000 rial (£4.20) per kilogram in the past year.
A chorus of public complaint over what is a staple part of the Iranian diet has even prompted the intervention of Iran’s police chief and senior clerics as the government has scrambled to make chicken available at affordable prices.
Investigators say the first evidence of what they describe as a vast smuggling effort was found last month in the north-western city Astara, when officers uncovered 3,000 kilograms of live chickens hidden at an unnamed location.
That was followed by the discovery of 23,000 kilogram of live poultry stashed away in a fleet of trucks and vans in the south-western province of Ilam in preparation for its illicit transport across the country. The produce was then to be sold illegally in locations other than poultry stores and market bazaars.
Similar cases have been discovered in other provinces on a daily basis, the semi-official news agency Mehr reported. In one instance, a worker at a poultry factory in the shrine city of Qom – home of Iran’s religious establishment – was able to sell 2,000 chickens at above-market prices by posing as the owner.
It is believed to be the first time chicken has been targeted by Iran’s illegal smuggling network, which more commonly features cosmetics, audio-visual equipment and alcohol.
Officials have not said whether smuggling is a cause or a symptom of rising chicken prices. Farmers and traders have previously blamed the increases on international sanctions – imposed to combat Iran’s nuclear programme – which they say has made it impossible to buy foreign-made livestock feed and thus driven up the price of domestic produce.
Last month, Iran’s police chief, Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam, called on the state broadcaster to censor images of chicken dinners from television screens to reduce the risk of public disorder. A grand ayatollah, Naser Makarem Shirazi, told Iranians to stop eating it, saying it was unhealthy, while the Friday prayer leader of Mashhad, Ahmad Alamolhoda, instructed worshippers to replace chicken with a traditional vegetable dish.
Residents in the north-western town of Neishabour recently took to the streets to protest against chicken’s rising cost.
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