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The Latest from Iran (28 July): "The Food Situation is Getting Worse and Worse for All of Us"

A lengthy queues for subsidised chicken

See also Iran Audio Feature: How Significant is the "Chicken Crisis"? Scott Lucas with Monocle 24
The Latest from Iran (27 July): "No Serious Plans to Combat the Sanctions"

1913 GMT: Chicken Watch. Another clerical explanation (see 0930 GMT) to cope with the rising prices and shortages of chicken....

In fact, Asadollah Imani, the Shiraz Friday Prayer leader, said, “There are no shortages; rather these psychological wars [of our enemies] lead to a false demand for goods in the country.”

1759 GMT: Election Watch. The opposition website Kalemeh has called for "civil disobedience" for the 2013 Presidential election, saying that a proper ballot is impossible without freedom of campaigning and guarantee of the legitimacy of votes.

1722 GMT: Election Watch. The House of Workers has nominated Hossein Kamali, Labour Minister in the reformist administration of President Khatami, as its Presidential candidate in 2013. The head of the organisation, Alireza Mahjoub has demanded freedom to campaign.

1718 GMT: Currency Watch. We wondered yesterday if Iran is on the verge of the currency crisis, given a 3% drop in the value of the Rial, and the question is doubled today: despite this week's introduction of a three-tier exchange rate to deal with issues over production and imports, as well as the currency market, the open-market Rial has slid further to 19670:1 vs. the US dollar on Mesghal and 19740:1 on Khabar Online.

The official rate of the Rial is 12260:1 vs. the dollar.

Arsalan Fathipour, the chairman of Parliament's Economy Committee, has presented a 9-point plan to control foreign exchange, but Fars is unimpressed, saying the steps are already in effect.

1704 GMT: Picture of Day. Climbers dedicate their ascent of Mount Damavand to political prisoners Emad Bahavar and Hossein Naeimipour.

Journalist Behavar is serving a 10-year sentence for "conspiring against the national security of the country", "propaganda against the state", and "insulting the Supreme Leader". Political activist Naeimipour was arrested in January.

1700 GMT: Agriculture Watch. Twelve deputies of the Agriculture Department of Ardebil Province in northwestern Iran have resigned in protest over mismanagement and the low rate of loans to farmers.

0949 GMT: Economy Watch. On Wednesday Parliament and Cabinet Ministers were in a five-hour emergency meeting on the economy. ISNA reports that they will convene again on Sunday.

0930 GMT: Chicken Watch. More clerical advice on Friday on how to cope with the soaring cost of chicken, with Ayatollah Alamolhoda, the Friday Prayer leader in Qom, telling his audience, "Eat eshkeneh (egg soup) instead of chicken."

Alamolhoda's injunction follows the comments this week of Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi:

We see a lot of people ranting on about the soaring price of chicken. Now so what if people don't eat chicken?....All doctors agree that eating meat products is bad for your health."

0625 GMT: Economy Watch. Then again, some Iranians are benefiting from the difficulties of others --- Benedict Faucon reports for The Wall Street Journal:

The fall of the Iranian currency, which has declined as much as 70% since December, has enabled some Iranians holding dollars or precious metals to make a small fortune.

In the Tehran bazaar, a noisy crowd gathered recently around a man shouting "currency exchange, transfers." The money changer said he would charge a 20% commission to transfer $1,000 overseas. The hefty fee was necessary, he said, because of the sudden and unpredictable moves in the exchange rate for the rial. "The currency rates keep on changing," he said to justify the commission.

One chador-clad housewife from a wealthy suburb said she was making $1,000 a month by speculating on gold. She buys gold coins at the bank and resells them in the bazaar to those who seek gold as a refuge from the falling currency.

Others make money by charging a hefty premium on imported goods, which are becoming scarce as countries refuse to ship directly to Iran. Those importers who can find a way around the sanctions—some shipments arrive marked with destinations such as Turkey or Tanzania to disguise the fact they are bound for Iran—can charge a markup of 7% on the shipments, Iranian officials and businessmen say.

One business consultant, speaking in a crowded North Tehran cafe, says the import trade—with its 7% markups—is making the fortunes of a class of nouveau riche. "The Porsches, that's thanks to the 7%," he says.

0525 GMT: We open this morning with two testimonies to France 24 of the growing problems for Iranians over food --- first, Fariba, a public servant and single mother in Tehran: 

I haven’t been able to buy a chicken for over a month. Chicken is part of our traditional diet; we use it in many of our meals. Since I work from 8am to 6pm, I am unable to go to the government-sponsored centres that offer reduced-price chickens, but I heard they’re frozen and of low quality. My neighbour went and stood in line for five whole hours to buy a chicken for 47,000 Rial per kilo (about $1.80 per pound at official rate). During the Persian New Year, we bought regular chicken for about 40,000 Rial per kilo (about $1.55 per pound); now, regular chicken – which only the rich can still afford – costs about 85,000 Rial (about $3.10 per pound). So it’s more than doubled!

People are upset; I hear lots of co-workers in my office complaining not just about the cost of chicken but also meat, eggs, bread and milk. The prices are rising so quickly, we can’t keep up. Many are now standing in long lines just to get these basic goods. As a single mother, I work full-time in a government office and work an additional job part-time. Altogether I make about 8,000,000 Rials (about $650) per month. With this salary, today, I can only buy basic necessities for myself and my little girl. The situation is getting worse and worse for all of us. And now it’s Ramadan --- religious people who usually spend a lot during this time are getting really angry. It seems that the whole population is fasting now, day and night!

Shirin, a journalist in Tehran:

In factories, offices, and universities, not only is there no more chicken in meals, but the price of meals has increased. In universities subsidized meals have nearly doubled from last year. This is unheard of.

And food isn’t the only problem. We’re now hearing news that there will soon be big hikes in the prices of medicine, gas, and electricity, which is making the population very worried. Add this to social issues, like the crackdown on women not wearing hijabs in the hot summer weather, and it’s no surprise people are protesting more and more. Life is simply becoming intolerable. And with the presidential election just around the corner, this could turn into an explosive situation.

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