According to a report by Medicinal Plants News Network quoting Ministry of Agriculture Jihad, Hossein Zeinali said, “Based on the needs of the country, we have a practical and strategic plan which will shortly be announced to all the country with the distinction of cities and villages.”

He went on to say, “Based on the studies on the agricultural products in the different regions of the country, we have divided the country and decided each province to focus on the special product of their own region, this means, for instance, Rosa damascena must be produced in Kashan, Fars and Kerman province. It is intended in this project to make a value chain (production, processing, university research,…) in each province, and all the value chains for the specific medicinal plant of the province be supplied for.”

Zeinali further noted, “With the aim of investment and production boost, several meetings having been held by Ministry of Agriculture Jihad, and representatives of Ministry of Health and Medical Education as well as Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade to investigate the main necessities of the country in terms of food and medical products.”

He said, “It is estimated that 85 percent of medicinal plants that is consumed in the country can be cultivated, produced and developed within the country, hence it has been planned to supply 75 percent of that in our own country.”

Convergence of Ministry of Agriculture Jihad, Ministry of Health and Medical Education as well as Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade to Economically Boost the Agricultural Sector    

Zeinali stressed, “These planning and organizing, apart from Medicinal Plants Council of Presidential Administration  (with the secretaryship of Ministry of Agriculture Jihad), has been taken place in various committees such as policy-making committee under the supervision of Vice-presidency of Science and Technology and the management of Dr. Assareh, or a committee in Ministry of Health and Medical Education attended by Ministry of Agriculture Jihad, which make decisions with an approach of economic boost in agricultural sector.” He added, “This is the very first convergence, and we are hoping to have an evolution next year, in the medicinal plants sector by the collaboration of the three ministries as well as the private sector. I now promise you that next year, we will witness that 100 percent of our national needs will be supplied by our own good quality products, also we will have great exports.

Medicinal Plants’ Import Banned as of Next Year

Medicinal Plants’ National Plan Executive referred to medicinal plants and herbal medicine as passive defenses in the country and said, “In alliance with strengthening domestic productions, we are going to impose strict rules against medicinal plants import (either raw materials or processed ones), we will allow those imports only if the medicinal plants are not produced in Iran. He further stated, “We have informed the manufacturers of the matter and right now I am  formally restating it. Based on the plans, several meetings have been held with big industrial units of agricultural and medicinal plants processed products as well as pharmaceutical companies, to put the “agriculture based on contract” in to practice. In terms of medicinal plants production, in the first stages, the goal is to first provide the domestic needs, then the export outlook is of importance. Therefore, their production and processed procedure needs to be modified.”

He went on to criticize the expense of the foreign exchange reserves for importing medicinal plants, “The foreign exchange which is gained with much difficulty, should not be lost so easily, this is when we can avoid it altogether, and that we can benefit from the domestic capacity by strengthening the national products.” He stressed, “This rule is not applied to the products that require a lot of water, the ones that are not produced in Iran, nor those which are endangered by natural disasters.”

Lack of Medicinal Plants Import does not Imply Pressure on Consumers  

He noted that lack of medicinal plants import does not imply that there will be pressure on consumers and users, “The domestic prices must stay within the international norms or even less than that; however, imports will be permitted, in case the decrease in production or other issues lead to a rise in the domestic prices, which will then impose a pressure on consumers or investors of industrial units and eventually increase the costs. Therefore, this is a great opportunity to strengthen the abilities of the agricultural sector, the agricultural alternative industries as well as manufacturers of herbal medicine.”

This Medicinal Plants’ National Plan Executive noted that 30 species (such as cardamom, cinnamon, ginger,etc…) are imported to Iran, “There are 8000 plant species identified in Iran, 1728 species of which are endemic, 40 to 50 of them  are common medicinal plants in this country and 220 plant species are consumed in herbal shops and traditional medicine. 190 plant species are wildly grown in nature. It has been approved for some of these plants, which lack relative advantage, to be grown only in greenhouses.”

The Total of Over 100 Percent of Plans Achieved in The Center So Far This Year

He indicated that the short term plans achieved in Medicinal Plants National Plan, so far this year have been over 100 percent, then added, “There has been a 200 percent  increase, in comparison with last year, in the cultivation area of Rosa damascena in Iran. This product requires little water and has an economic value and high export. Also, the gardens of Rosa damascena have had 2000 hectares increase this year. We are hoping to have another 2000 heactares of Rosa damascena cultivation development in spring.”

Zeinali further stated, “According to this project, 2500 hectares of saffron cultivation development was planned; however, 3100 hectares were in fact cultivated.” Referring to the cultivation in autumn, the Medicinal Plants’ National Plan Executive said, “Cultivation of Nigella sativa, Lallemantia iberica  as well as important herbs such as coriander, Silybum marianum,  thyme, echium, etc are among the priorities in this plan.”

Special Support for Iranian Endemic Medicinal Plants Cultivation

He indicated that branding, planning for more profitability as well as bringing foreign exchange to the country from Iranian endemic medicinal plants are among the other aspects of this plan, “Foreign markets are ready to buy our products. We support the cultivation of orchis, truffle, tragacanth and zataria in the farms and rangelands. For instance, in this agricultural year, over one million zataria plants have been produced and distributed and due to the fact that some species like zataria are threatened in the rangelands, we are hoping to cultivate wild plants as well.”

Zeinali referred to another aspect of the plan, as strengthening the agricultural sector through promoting products that require little water and have high production then said, “For instance, caraway is an endemic plant of Iran, and the world market is open to it, on the other hand, it requires little water and has high production. It also made about 200 million toman of revenue per hectare within 3 months.

He went on to say, “Among the country’s endemic medicinal plants, apart from saffron, zataria and caraway, we can mention echium, cumin, henna and Isatis tinctoria, of which we plan to increase the cultivation area and that the infrastructures are prepared.”

Medicinal Plants’ National Plan Executive further pointed to the rise in the export of medicinal plants in the past several years especially the 252 million dollar export of saffron in the 8 months, “The export of coriander, Rosa damascena and variety of resins moved us to a point where we intent to follow the plan more strictly.”

Trading Committee and Comprehensive Medicinal Plants System

Referring to medicinal plants production and sales order, Zeinali said, “A medicinal plants production, development, export and import system will soon be unveiled, in order to monitor the process from production and distribution from the farms to the consumer tables. This can somewhat be a form of sales of these products without having middlemen. The aim of this system and the basic of our work is to promote contract-based agriculture between farmers, people, traders and manufacturers.”

“One of the most important plans of Ministry of Agriculture Jihad in this field, is to form a trading committee.” Said Medicinal Plants’ National Plan Executive, “This committee will be formed by private sectors and attended by businessmen. In the meetings, the goals of the medicinal plants office will be clarified, that is, what kind of assistance can they make to strengthen the value chain of these product to be used either domestically or abroad, and the complementary skills they can contribute. The aim of the governmental sector is solely to facilitate.”

Prioritizing to Provide Facilities to Improve Value Chain

In another segment, referring to processing of medicinal plants, Zeinali further noted, “We do not have any issues nor any problems in establishing small units (in agricultural fields), units for drying up or winnowing; however, our studies have shown that there are still issues concerning intermediate products. Products that for instance, require disinfection besides winnowing, in order to use them in factories. There have been some planning and decisions have been made in this regard to provide some projects with facilities to improve the value chain. This means in allocating facilities, priorities will be given to the cultivation and processing of plants and herbs, due to the fact that we believe their cultivation area needs to be developed in order to satisfy the domestic need.”

“Our most important issue is the medicinal plants balance of trade, which is now 300 percent, threefold to our advantage. We have had 450 million dollars’ worth of exports and 150 million dollars is the domestic consumption, which means we have three times move value added. If we can keep the export at that number, but increase the domestic consumption, and decrease import, our economy will boost and the balance of trade will be positive . This is our most stressed emphasis.”

The Necessity of Applicable Research in the Field of Medicinal Plants

Referring to the water crisis in the country, Medicinal Plants’ National Plan Executive of Ministry of Agriculture Jihad in his final statement said, “The shortage of water has a declining effect on the medicinal plants’ function, on the other hand, there has not been enough research on the cultivation and production of medicinal plants. The problem is that our universities do not have a specific plan in this regard; they teach, help students graduate , write thesis, dissertations and papers, none of which assists in planning, policy-making and implementation. Therefore, one of the main plans is to propose subjects to carry out  applicable research and make use of them.”

Increase in Production in Unit Area Based on Planning

He went on to say, “For the first time in this agricultural year, facilities have been paid for soil modification. Due to soil degradation and water crisis, we need to move on to modification patterns of cultivation as well as medicinal plants development. In places where there have been sufficient amount of water and fertilizers, the average function of saffron production has been 10 to 12 kilos per hectare. In some regions, the farmers were able to harvest 20 to 30 kilos of saffron per hectare. This shows that based on the planning and care we can have an increase in production per hectare.”

In Terms of Allocating Credit, We Will be the Top Exporter in the Middle East  

Zeinali pointed out that during the 8 months of the year, 300 million dollars worth of medicinal plants have been exported, “We have a great potential in Iran to increase that number, and in order to put that potential in to practice, we need to have applicable and strategic programs. Preparation, compilation as well as supervision on the programs require allocation of credit. However, unfortunately, there has not been any pragmatism in this regard. If we are more attentive to this plan within the next several years, have more budgets and credits allocated to medicinal plants and are able to join the chains, surely we can be the top exporter in the Middle East, in two years’ time.