Iranian customs seize 15 tonnes of Iraq-bound smuggled tomatoes labelled as lettuce

Iranian customs seize 15 tonnes of Iraq-bound smuggled tomatoes labelled as lettuce
Make way for the king tomato. Tomatoes and tomato paste recently became scarce in parts of Iran after smugglers pursuing higher profits across the border caused market shortages. This cartoon on the theme was published by Iran's Tasnim News Agency.
By bne IntelliNews November 8, 2018

Iranian customs authorities seized 15 tonnes of smuggled tomatoes bound for Iraq at the Soomar customs point in Kermanshah province, Iran Labour News Agency reported.

Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration (IRICA) has been cracking down on people smuggling and hoarding products in recent months with those arrested including mobile phone importers and household goods importers. Such criminal activities have been on the increase with people looking to make a quick or big buck among the market upheaval caused by the reimposition of US sanctions.

The confiscated tomatoes bore the wrong export label, namely a label for lettuce. However, agents who were checking shipping dockets on trucks spotted the attempted deceit. Under Article 113 of the customs law, mislabelling of goods is "treated as smuggling".

In mid-October, the Iranian government banned tomato exports following panic buying of tomato paste, a staple ingredient used in many local dishes.

Iran has abundant crops of tomatoes and shopkeepers might have expected to see the export ban turn things around, but Reuters reported on October 11 that the tomato policy was not working, with an industry representative saying tomatoes were still being smuggled abroad.

“We have heard that trucks full of tomatoes are still leaving the country, especially to Iraq,” Mohammad Mir-Razavi, head of the Syndicate of Canning Industry, was cited as saying.

“They put boxes of greenhouse tomatoes on top and hide normal tomatoes at the bottom,” he said, referring to an exemption for hot-house grown tomatoes that left a loophole.

In early September, Iranian consumers were hit by shortages of nappies, incontinence pads and sanitary towels, with producers suffering a lack of raw materials caused by a lack of foreign currency allocations in Iran to buy supplies.

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