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Sanctions on Iran: Iranians face shortages of rice, corn, and cooking oil

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Rice is one of the main staples of the Iranian diet. With the rial currency plummeting, prices have more than doubled to $5 a kilo at bazaars in Iran from about $2 last year.

Maize is used primarily as animal feed, and the cost of meat has almost tripled to about $30 a kilo, beyond the budget of many middle class Iranian families.

The measures have had a dramatic impact on daily life in the country ahead of a March 2 parliamentary election that will pit supporters of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against opponents seen as even more conservative.

Reformists are barely represented in the election, which is being seen as a referendum on Ahmadinejad's economic policies that have seen subsidies for basic goods cut and replaced with direct payments to families.

Next month's election will be Iran's first since a presidential vote in 2009, when a disputed victory for Ahmadinejad triggered eight months of violent protests. The authorities put that revolt down by force, but since then the Arab Spring has shown the vulnerability of governments in the region to popular anger fuelled by economic hardship.

Traders in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur said palm oil shipments to Iran had largely been halted since late last year, after U.S. and European sanctions made it difficult for buyers to obtain letters of credit and make payments via middlemen in the United Arab Emirates.

"They keep asking in the spirit of Muslim brotherhood. The last I heard was an enquiry for 5,000 tonnes for February or March delivery, but no one wants to take that risk now," said one trader in Kuala Lumpur, speaking on condition of anonymity while discussing commercial contracts.

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