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Iran sanctions hurt French cattle farmers

Dairy cows in Verningelund.
Dairy cows in Verningelund. RFI/Agnieszka Kumor

After France’s auto and oil sector, Washington’s re-imposed sanctions on Iran have now dealt a blow to parts of the country’s livestock export industry, according to media reports.


Thousands of French cows set to be exported to Iran are now stuck on the ground in north-western France, AFP reports, just days after the first tranche of US sanctions against the Middle Eastern country took effect.

Seamorgh, an Iranian poultry farm chain, had signed a deal with cattle farmers in France’s Normandy region in 2016 when the Iran nuclear deal was still intact, according to AFP. The company’s goal: import between 10,000 to 20,000 calves per year, mostly of the Charolaise breed, to fatten them up and send them to Iranian slaughterhouses.

The contract was signed for “ten of fifteen million euros”, according to French Senator Nathalie Goulet. Goulet, who represents parts of Normandy, had worked to get the contract signed for the farmers in her region.

The livestock imports would have been Iran’s first since the country’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, according to AFP.

Now, Goulet fears the project – which sought to “create a quality beef industry in the Middle East” – may have to be “abandoned”.

Shattered hopes

A first “test” export in October 2017 saw more than 300 young calves successfully transported to Iran by plane.

“The calves were bought for the same price as in France,” AFP quotes Anne-Marie Denis, president of the rural FDSEA farmers’ union, as saying. “The deal represented a significant opportunity for cattle raisers.

“We were even envisioning exporting other products further down the line”, she said, including “cattle feed and processed meat”.

But these trade dreams were slashed when US President Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in May. The withdrawal was followed by his administration’s decision to re-impose sanctions, which penalise foreign companies or governments for doing business in Iran.

Not wanting to risk stiff financial penalties, the French banks backing the Norman contract are now “refusing Iranian money”, Goulet said. The rural cooperative Agrial, which had been tasked with gathering the cows from the various farms for export, has withdrawn from the project. And the insurance company responsible for covering the export costs has said “it won’t be able to continue”, according to Goulet.

“We now find ourselves with no bank and no logistical support,” she said. “We’re at the mercy of Trump’s whims.”

The senator has denounced “the extraterritoriality of American law”, and has called for the EU to defend its economic interests.

The EU, which still adheres to the landmark 2015 nuclear pact, has promised to take steps to protect European firms dealing with Iran. But the uncertainty has already prompted many businesses to pull out of the country for fear of US penalties.

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