TEHRAN BLOG: Iran hit by cost-of-kebabs crisis

TEHRAN BLOG: Iran hit by cost-of-kebabs crisis
The heat is on. / Paul Keller, cc-by-sa 2.0
By bne IntelIiNews May 23, 2023

Kebabs, both minced (kabab-e kubideh) and chicken (joojeh kabab), have become a much pricier affair for Iranians, according to local media reports. The situation amounts to a frustrating cost-of-kebabs crisis within the worsening cost-of-living crisis, with inflation rampant.

As per reports, the price of these traditional delicacies has surged by approximately 25-30% since the start of the Persian year 1402 (March 21, 2023), making a plate of beef/lamb kebab or chicken kebab with rice a costly treat.

For instance, last year (in the month of Aban 1401), a serving of lamb kebab (comprising two skewers of 250 grams each) along with a plate of buttered rice cost about 400,000 toman ($7.70). This year, the same serving of lamb kebab with rice costs 500,000 toman ($9.61). Similarly, a 500-gram serving of boneless chicken kebab that was priced at 230,000 toman ($4.40) last year, is now priced at 300,000 toman ($5.78).

The cause of these price hikes is attributed to the high costs of inputs, as explained by Ali Asghar Mirabrahimi, head of the Union of Restaurant and Self-service Owners of Tehran.

"Live sheep are very expensive. We are buying each kilogram for between 240 to 250 thousand tomans [$4.70]” he said.

“Meanwhile, one kilogram of undressed lamb thigh meat costs 460 thousand tomans and a kilogram of lamb ribs costs between 550 to 600 thousand tomans," Mirabrahimi told reporters.

Additionally, a kilogram of chicken is sold for 90,000 toman ($1.73) and a kilogram of fillet for about 250,000 toman ($4.70), he added.

As such, the higher input costs, especially in terms of meat, are having a direct impact on the final prices of these much loved Iranian dishes.

Reports have surfaced across Iran of people opting for less meat and more bread and vegetables to survive the inflationary pressures on the economy, running at above 60%, according to leaked government data.

Though energy-rich Iran can, for instance, provide citizens with some of the cheapest gasoline in the world, officials are nervous at their lack of success in fighting stubbornly high inflation.

Young couples in Iran are opting to buy silver rather than gold wedding rings amid the painful cost-of-living squeeze, president of the Gold, Jewellery, and Silver Union in Mashhad, Yusuf Taghizadegan, told Tejarat News on May 14.

Suspicions that officials have become wary of giving Iranians true insights into how bad Iran’s difficulties with inflation actually are grew when the Statistical Centre of Iran (SCI) was two months late in releasing the latest inflation data.

The data, eventually released in early May, showed the official annual inflation rate for the final month of the last Persian calendar year (the year, 1401, and the final month of the year "Esfand" ended on March 20),

at 45.8% compared to a revised 44.1% for the previous Persian month, "Bahman".

The SCI said that the reason for the delay was work required to change the base year for inflation calculations going forward from 1395 to 1400. Analysts, however, questioned why the SCI would use a new base year for the last month of the Iranian year.

A Financial Times article published on May 1 reported accusations that Iran’s Raisi administration was keeping the final-month inflation data under wraps as it would show that price growth in the country had spiralled to record levels.

Analysts told the UK financial daily that inflation in the final month possibly exceeded the 49% rate reached in 1995, the all-time high.

“It seems the Statistical Centre of Iran was not allowed by higher authorities to publish the inflation rate to avoid admitting that this government has broken the country’s record,” Saeed Laylaz, a political economy analyst, was quoted as saying, adding: “The fact is that the government has not been able to curb inflation.”

Reformist daily Etemad wrote at the end of April that the regime was “seeking to play with figures to decrease the inflation rate”.