The head of Tehran’s restaurants union said that restaurants were facing an “unprecedented low in customers” adding that a fourth of restaurants had closed down as a result.
“This year we have witnessed an unprecedented drop in restaurant customers to the extent that from the 700 registered and licensed restaurants in Tehran, 180 restaurants have asked us to revoke their license,” Ali Asghar Mir Ibrahimi said in a report by the Tasnim state-run news agency.
The official said that the high cost of raw materials including meat, poultry, legumes and tomato sauce had led to a decrease in customers.
The head of the Tehran restaurants union said that restaurant owners called him every day complaining about high prices, increased costs and value added tax.
“We don’t have an answer to give them,” he added.
There have been reports on social media that restaurants had resorted to adding “stews without meat” (khoresh without meat) to their menus to attract customers who could not afford meat.
The meat crisis that has gripped Iran is the result of years of government mismanagement, a broken economy and corruption.
State media have reported that the regime was exporting red meat to its neighbors while importing the more affordable frozen meat, once banned by the founder of the Islamic Revolution, Ruhollah Khomeini, for Iranians.
Iranians wait in long lines to buy the frozen meat at more affordable prices. However, many Iranians have posted videos on social media showing that the meat they received was bits of leftover meat packed together.
Though the regime tries to blame everything on sanctions, a former Minister of Commerce recently said that the sanctions had nothing to do with rising meat prices.
“The sanctions do not include meat exports so no one can use this as an excuse for the scarcity of meat in the market,” Yahya Ale Eshaq said on February 5.
Regime responsible for meat crisis
There are many reasons behind the increase in meat prices. One of the reasons is the increase in the trafficking of livestock to neighboring countries carried out by those affiliated with the regime and the Revolutionary Guards Corps.
According to Hossein-Ali Haji Dalilgani, a lawmaker from Shahin Shahr in the central province of Isfahan, the government does nothing to stop meat trafficking.
“The performance of the Ministry of Agricultural in relation to meat prices is erroneous and the trafficking of livestock must be prevented,” he said in the Iranian parliament on January 29.
According to the Minister of Agriculture, 2 million livestock were being trafficked to other countries.
“Currently there are 2 million livestock being trafficked to other countries. This is a national capital and this capital is taken to countries in the Persian Gulf from the west, northwest and south of the country,” Mahmoud Hojjati said without specifying who was involved in the trafficking.
This amount of livestock can only be trafficked by a powerful entity with the state’s support.
Iran’s borders are fiercely controlled by the regime and border porters or kolbars in Iran’s western regions are shot, injured and sometimes killed by border police on a daily basis for carrying smuggled goods on their backs.
Recently, in a TV program when asked about soaring meat prices, the Minister of Agriculture said, “thank God we have this much”.
This and other economic woes has angered many people who say that they have not been able to eat meat for months.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Zahra Akrami, a mother of two recently said that despite waiting in the frozen meat lines for two hours, she was told to come back another day after the meat ran out.
“Every day, the radio and TV are reporting about the trial of those officials who took public funds for themselves, but there’s no change in our life,” said Assad Azari, a 63-year-old retired teacher and father of three waiting in line.
“We poor people shouldn’t have to wait hours for two kilos (4.4 pounds) of budget meat,” he told AP.