Future food self-sufficiency in Iran: A model-based analysis

Soltani, A.; Alimagham, S.M.; Nehbandani, A.; Torabi, B.; Zeinali, E.; Zand, E.; Vadez, V.; Loon, M.P. van; Ittersum, M.K. van


Iran, with its more than 80 million people, is located in a politically unstable region. The country's future food supply and sufficiency is at stake because of the over-exploitation of land and water resources. In this study, a modeling framework was used to estimate production of plant species as influenced by different scenarios for the year 2030. The scenarios capture different agricultural water resources, improved irrigation efficiency and narrowing of crop yield gaps (i.e, difference between current farm yield and potential yield). Food demand, given a range of diets and loss and waste scenarios was also evaluated using the modeling framework. We found that limiting current agricultural water withdrawal to a safe level for the environment (from 86.0 to 38.5 billion m3 per year) until 2030, along with an increase in population (from 80 to 90 million people) during the same period led to a decline in self-sufficiency from of 83% to only 39%, assuming current production management, current diet and food loss and waste. Implementation of a highly-improved production scenario (narrowing relative yield gap from the current 60% to 40% and increasing irrigation efficiency from the current 38% to 53%) restored self-sufficiency to 61% using the current diet, loss and waste and to 69% using a medium-change demand scenario (a modified diet and 15% reduction in loss and waste). Avoiding water over-withdrawal by agriculture until 2030 won't be possible without sacrificing a degree of self-sufficiency. To achieve the highest self-sufficiency results, a combination of increased production and controlled demand are necessary.