As American sanctions are choking Iran’s economy, the country is increasingly looking to spuds as a cost-effective alternative to the traditional imports that have fed many Iranians. In 2017, Iran imported 1.2 million tons of rice, 1.3 million tons of barley and 9.5 million tons of corn, but several top agribusinesses have since stopped selling to the country for fear of violating U.S. sanctions.
In February, photos emerged of ordinary Iranians forced to stand in long queues for subsidized frozen meat due to rising prices.
Amid growing worries over food shortages, the Iranian government is doubling down on production of potatoes to ensure that the carb-rich vegetable is available to the masses, as it seeks to beat back the threat of social unrest because of the economic crisis. Iran has increased its potato production by more than 20 percent since 2009, when it grew 4.1 million tons. It has consistently produced 5 million metric tons of potatoes since 2015, making the potato a reliable go-to food for the regime in this moment of crisis.