Iran, one of the biggest and most promising pet food markets in the MiddleEast, is experiencing an acute shortage of high-quality pet food products, asthe import of foreign brands continues to be banned. US President-Elect JoeBiden may change this.

Foreign brands have dominated the Iranian pet food market for many years. J.M.Vet Group was the largest importer of pet food in Iran with a market share ofmore than 50%, selling 1,300 metric tonnes in 2017, according to Dr JalaleddinMirfakhrai, director of the company. The Iran Customs Office reported that thecountry was importing pet food from Spain, Australia, France, Germany, theUnited Arab Emirates, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Thailand, Turkey, andthe Czech Republic. Historically, France was the biggest supplier of pet food.Agras Delic, Schesir, and Stuzzy were the market leaders in the wet segment,while Bosch-Tiernahrung was the most popular brand in the dry pet foodsegment.

In 2025, this US$ 80 million pet food market is predicted to reach theEuropean level of per capita pet food consumption and become the biggestmarket in the Middle East. Because of strict import restrictions, Iran’sdomestic pet food production is thriving.

Trump administration reinstated sanctions on Iran

However, the results of the 2016 US Presidential elections brought a nightmarefor Iran’s pet owners. The Trump administration reinstated all US sanctions onIran which were removed under the 2015 nuclear deal. Several hundredindividuals, entities, vessels, and aircraft were put on the sanctions list,including major banks, oil exporters and shipping companies. Although theTrump sanctions did not target the Iran pet food companies directly, theirimpact on the local market was truly devastating.

Pet food imports banned

Foreign brands are not legally allowed to enter Iran. Photo: Royal Canin

The following year, pet food, in fact, fell victim to so-called internalsanctions. According to Dr Mirfakhrai, the US sanctions caused the exchangerate of the national currency to soar. The government found itself stripped offoreign currency, so embarked on several measures aimed at decreasing importsto the maximum possible extent. In April 2019, the government divided allcustoms codes into 4 groups. Pet food was included in Group 4 (so-called“unnecessary goods”), all of which were technically banned from importing toIran. Against this background, the price of imported pet food in Iransky­rocketed, in some cases, by a factor of ten compared to early 2019.“Starting from April 2019, imports of pet food were totally banned by theIranian government, so for more than a year the supply of pet food throughlegal channels like through my company was zero. There is therefore now a lackof well-known brands on the market,” Dr Mirfakhrai said.

Pet food smuggling

Currently, some pet food is still supplied to Iran, but only through somesmuggling channels. There was a similar picture in 2013 when the US and EUtightened sanctions on Iran and an entire cross-border industry of smugglingemerged. Cities bordering Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey are believed to bethe main gateways for smuggling, in both directions. Iran’s smugglers exportfuel – petrol and diesel – the country’s main commodity, while importing abroad range of products, including pet food. “Black import remains in themarket, but the main problem is a dramatic increase in prices, which isassociated with the high exchange rate, and also a lack of supply throughlegal channels,” Dr Mirfakhrai said, adding that, against this background theCovid-19 pandemic has not had much impact on the market.

Source: Pets International Magazine

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