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Iran: Special comment. The evidence continues to pour in that the US banking sanctions are imposing large penalties on Iranian consumers. Iran can still sell its oil, but cannot get paid and cannot pay for imports of rice, palm oil, tea and other imported foodstuffs and commodities. Iranian companies are in default. Today, Indian authorities reported Iran defaulted on a 90-day note to pay for the import of 200,000 tons of rice from India that was ordered last October and November.Iran also defaulted on payments for shipments of Indian tea and for 400,000 tons of Ukrainian wheat, some of which is aboard ships in Iranian ports. Ship owners refuse to allow the wheat to be offloaded. Iran also has defaulted in paying for imports of Indian tea. Ten ships are in Iranian ports but refuse to permit offloading because the Iranian rial is not negotiable as a medium of international exchange. In the past week, Iran has offered to barter gold bullion in overseas vaults and filled oil tankers for basic commodities. Comment: The collapse of the Iranian rial plus the refusal of banks and companies to deal with Iran are having serious impact. The price of everything in Iran is rising. The sanctions against Iranian banks that rely on the US dollar for international trade are proving to be devastating for everyday Iranians. In order to meet domestic demand, Iran must import more than 1 million tons of rice, of which some 70% is purchased from India. Iran produces more than 2 million tons of rice, but still must import a million tons or so from India and other states to satisfy domestic demand. I Iran has defaulted on payments because the Iranian rial is almost no longer convertible into internationally acceptable hard currency. Indian and UAE middle-man companies are going out of business because the Iranian currency is worthless, nonnegotiable. Iran's customary trade partners are experimenting with barter swaps and trades paid in local currencies, such as Indian Rupees, Malaysian Ringgit and Indonesian Rupiah. Iran relies on India for 45% of its rice imports, but on Indonesia and Malaysia for all of it palm oil imports, meaning cooking oil, margarine and other industrial uses. Iran can export but must now accept payment in currencies not traded on international markets or payment in kind. There is no predictability in the profit for traders; barter strikes at the heart of an integrated global economy, which the advanced western countries seek. The impact on the Iranian micro-economy is serious. Imported basic commodities are becoming out of reach in price and rare. If the banking sanctions continue, the Iranian standard of living must decline. Western clothes and electronics, for example, will only be available to the wealthy elite. Their possession eventually will brand the owners as non-revolutionary and not devout Shiites. The ayatollahs are not impervious to the plight of the people who must pay their salaries, but they have shown no movement on nuclear talks… yet. Resort to barter is a sign of growing national concern. Banking sanctions are proving to work far more effectively than any others. Readers should expect Iran to make overtures for new talks without making promises. Iranians are not hurting enough yet. Nevertheless, urban dwelling Iranians are likely to engage in civil disobedience if prices for staple commodities continue to rise and imported goods become unavailable at any price. KFGS Private Intelligence ========================================================================= TOUGH WORDS With the West trying to tighten the noose with sanctions, Tehran vowed to fight back and denied that the sanctions are hurting the Iranian economy. Iran's Majlis (parliament) is ready to approve a bill aimed at stopping oil exports to member states of the EU in response to their bid to embargo Iran's oil exports, local TV reported Tuesday. Also on Tuesday Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the sanctions are old news and have been going on for 30 years. "The practical outcome of such measures (of sanctioning Iran) is the determination of the Iranian nation in implementing their outstanding goals in the framework of national interests and rights," he said. But his tough words cannot hide the fact that the sanctions are indeed taking their toll on the country's economy. Food and living costs have soared in Iran, and imported goods, such as electronic devices, have more than doubled in price from a year before. With the depreciation of the rial and its limited reserve of hard currencies, Tehran is forced to barter, trading gold and oil with international traders, to maintain a steady food supply in the country. Iran is also seeking new buyers for its oil to replace the EU, South Korea and Japan, all of which have moved to embargo Iranian oil exports. China Daily ============================================================================ By Niluksi Koswanage and Cho Mee-young Malaysia has halted palm oil exports to Iran because of payments problems and Asian oil buyers have cut crude purchases as Western sanctions tighten a financial noose around Iran. Traders in China said they would cut iron ore purchases from Iran, which are worth over $2 billion a year, because of sanctions that have forced payment defaults on Indian rice imports and prompted Ukrainian and European sellers to stop booking shipments of Ukrainian grain to the Middle East country. The problems are the most visible evidence to date that Western sanctions are squeezing Iran’s trade. Iran’s crude oil buyers, including China and Japan, are cutting purchases, reducing the OPEC producer’s earnings from its major source of the foreign exchange it needs to pay for critical imports, such as food staples. The problems have come to light after U.S. sanctions this year targeted Iran’s central bank and the European Union decided to ban Iran crude imports in an effort to force Tehran to abandon a suspected nuclear weapons programme. Iran’s rial (IRR-) has plunged as the West increased sanctions, raising the price of imports for the economy and making it difficult to find Dubai-based middlemen who can process payments to keep the country’s trade flowing. Bread and rice dominate the diet of most Iranians, many of whom can no longer afford to buy meat, now selling for about $30 a kilogram in Tehran. Bread prices have tripled since December, while rice costs about $5 per kg (2.2 lbs). Iranians earn about $350 a month on average, while officials put the poverty line at $800. Grain ships are docked outside Iranian ports, many traders have said they are not booking fresh cargoes and exports of staples to Iran such as maize are falling as collecting payment from buyers gets harder. Iran imported 62 percent of its maize, 45 percent of its rice and 59 percent of its sugar in 2010-11, but only 3 percent of its wheat, data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show. In the latest sign of Iran’s stress, trading sources in Malaysia said exporters of palm oil, used in cooking oil, confectionary and bio-diesel, had stopped supplying most of the 30,000 tonnes of the commodity Iran used to buy each month from the end of 2011. Malaysia meets half of Iran’s palm oil demand. The sanctions have made it difficult for Iranian palm oil buyers to use letters of credit and make payments via middlemen in the United Arab Emirates, they said. “Payments are not coming through and no palm oil shipper wants to risk sending the cargoes to Iran with such a tense political situation,” said a trader with direct knowledge of the deals, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue. Metals traders in China said they would reduce iron ore purchases from Iran from March because they are worried that the sanctions will disrupt business. Iran was China’s fifth-biggest supplier of the commodity in 2011. “There’s a huge risk ahead, and many just haven’t realized it yet,” said a senior executive at a Shanghai-based trading firm that has a long-term partnership with an Iranian supplier. “It’s easy for the United States to freeze our business,” he said. “It’s not worth taking the risk.” Some Chinese traders said they would keep buying the ore from Iran as long as they were able to get paid because it was cheaper than other sources of the commodity. “Many Chinese traders, and miners, want to take the opportunity to buy the ore to make more money,” a Shanghai-based trader said. “Though I’m still making bookings from Iran, I’m extremely cautious.” Indian exporters and rice millers said on Tuesday that Iranian buyers had defaulted on $144 million in payments for rice imports from its biggest supplier. Vijay Setia, the president of the All India Rice Exporters’ Association, called on members to cease exports to Iran on credit terms. Iran’s foreign exchange earnings are also being pinched as the sanctions put major buyers, including China, Japan and India, under pressure to reduce crude imports from OPEC’s second-biggest producer. Asia purchases more than half of Iran’s 2.6 million barrels per day of crude exports and some buyers are already cutting. Media reports on Wednesday said Japan’s biggest refiner JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp will cut 10,000 bpd of Iranian crude imports, matching reductions Cosmo Oil has made since January. In another possible indication of cuts, the United Arab Emirates’ main crude oil exporter will supply Asia with full contractual crude volumes in March for the first time in almost a year, industry sources said on Wednesday. China has drawn heavily on Saudi Arabia, OEC’s biggest producer by far, after cutting back on Iran supplies this year. Industry sources said the world’s second-biggest oil consumer is importing more cargoes from West Africa, Russia and Australia but has bought the bulk from Saudi Arabia. However, China’s decision to halve its Iranian imports is seen by industry experts as a way to negotiate lower prices from Iran, rather than as a response to Western sanctions. The sanctions lockdown has left some payments for Iran’s oil stranded. South Korea pays for its oil in its won currency, but Iran has hit a wall trying to transfer the money back to Tehran, leaving the equivalent of $5 billion sitting in South Korea banks. ==================================================== Iran is turning to barter - offering gold bullion in overseas vaults or tankerloads of oil - in return for food as new financial sanctions have hurt its ability to import basic staples for its 74 million people, commodities traders said on Thursday. Difficulty paying for urgent import needs has contributed to sharp rises in the prices of basic foodstuffs, causing hardship for Iranians with just weeks to go before an election seen as a referendum on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's economic policies. New sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union to punish Iran for its nuclear program do not bar firms from selling Iran food but they make it difficult to carry out the international financial transactions needed to pay for it. Reuters surveys of commodities traders around the globe show that since the start of the year, Iran has had trouble securing imports of basic staples like rice, cooking oil, animal feed and tea. Grain ships have been held at its ports, refusing to unload until payment can be received for cargo. With Iran's rial currency tumbling, the prices of rice, bread and meat in Iranian bazaars have doubled or more in dollar terms in recent months. Iranian grain importers have in the past side-stepped sanctions by booking business through the United Arab Emirates, traders said, but this option was cut off by the UAE government in response to sanctions. Iran has been trading oil in currencies like Japanese yen, South Korean won and Indian rupees, but such deals make it difficult to repatriate profits. Deals revealed Thursday appear to be among the first in which Iran has had to result to offering cashless barter to avoid sanctions, a sign of new urgency as it seeks to buy food and get around the financial restrictions. Asian Age ====
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