As impoverished breadwinners in Iran are struggling to fill their food baskets, Abbas Tabesh, the Deputy Minister of Industry, Trade, and Mine and the head of the Consumers and Producers Protection Organization, has declared a 200-percent increase in macaroni prices. Dubbed a controversial official, Tabesh had already filled media publications with his odd remarks and orders.
On April 13, Tabesh claimed that “any increase in the prices during the last month” should be corrected “tonight” and be returned to last year’s price. In his interview with the official state-run IRNA news agency on the same day, he gave another hollow promise, stating, “From April 21, the cost of 8,000 essential goods will be adjusted by an average of 40 percent compared to the previous prices.”
He later withdrew the baseless claims and agreed to a 200-percent increase in the price of essential goods, like macaroni, at the end of Ramadan.
Tabesh’s order was published on the Tabnek website, which stated, “Regarding the new price of durum wheat, … and multiple requests of macaroni factories’ unions about increasing relevant costs, including paychecks, transportation, packing, etc., … and reraising the issue at the Vice President [Mohammad Mokhber] session, the maximum price of simple macaroni for consumers are: 500 gr: 170,000 rials [$0.60], 700 gr: 240,000 rials [$0.85], 1,000 gr: 340,000 rials [$1.20].”
The new prices have shaped a significant part of underprivileged citizens’ food baskets. The semi-official ISNA news agency reported, “The [Consumers and Producers] Protection Organization announced the maximum price of simple noodles macaroni—with VAT—increased from 170,000 to 340,000 rials.”
The Parliament [Majlis] has specified that currently, the minimum wage for Iranian workers is 28 million rials [$100] per month, while official statistics show that the poverty line is around 100 to 130 million rials [$357 to 464].
In response to public dissatisfaction, the government initially gave bogus reasons for their decisions. For instance, officials claimed that increased demands have caused several stores and technical market deficits. They later attributed reports about raising prices of macaroni to uninformed propaganda efforts.
The increases in essential goods’ prices are showing that authorities are ignorant of the people’s growing financial difficulties, which is severely challenging their corrupt and unelected ruling system. These increases have not just been limited to the price of macaroni either, but have engulfed a variety of citizens’ basic needs, including bread, cooking oil, rice, eggs, etc.
Following the 130-percent increase in the price of rice, many people had to replace this staple item with bread and macaroni. However, the government also affected these alternative items with a 150 and 200-percent increase in bread and macaroni prices respectively.
Agricultural Jihad Minister, Seyyed Javad Sadatinejad reportedly laid the blame for expensive wheat and cereals, and their derivatives, on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is far from the truth.
Surveys have revealed that the annual inflation of foodstuffs has skyrocketed from 10 percent in 2018 to 61 percent in late 2021. Simultaneously, the power purchase of 80 percent of people has decreased to one-third.
The Entekhab website cited Sadatinejad on May 4, writing, “One of the neighboring countries faces a 3-million-ton wheat shortage; it wants to compensate for this shortage via smuggling from Iran; we set the flour price by 120,000 rials [$0.42] to counter smuggling. The subsidies that we will give to the people due to the increasing flour price are more than the costs.”
Notably, the price of baguette bread has increased 13-fold. On May 3, the Tejarat News website reported that “According to bakery activists in Isfahan, the central province of Iran, the flour price has reached 9,000 to 120,000 rials [$0.03 to $0.42],”
Authorities’ Concerns Over Repetition Nationwide Protests
Fearing the public backlash over the increased prices, even allies of President Ebrahim Raisi, referred to as the butcher of Tehran, expressed their concerns, blaming the government for financial failures and the Iranian people’s horrific living conditions.
“… If it is supposed that the people cost based on global prices, their income should be based on global level and U.S. dollar, not unworthy rial. Do not test people’s patience,” tweeted Jalil Rahimi-Jahanabadi, a Majlis’s Security Affairs Commission member, “The threshold of public tolerance has reached the lowest possible level for years.”
Ali-Reza Pakfetrat, a Majlis’s Construction Commission member, highlighted Raisi’s failure to control prices in an interview with the Rouydad24 website on May 4. He said, “The government has no supervision on market and prices.”
Mohammad Mohajeri, a ‘hardliner journalist’, also blamed Raisi for failing to fix the country’s unbridled dilemmas under the hashtag “دولت_علیل#” [disabled government].
On May 4, he tweeted, “Dear Mr. Raisi, I would like to ask you, how much time do you need and what should happen to the country’s economy to realize that you and your government are not fit for [governing]?”