DUBAI Iran banned the export of around 50 basic goods, its media said on Tuesday, as the country takes steps to preserve supplies of essential items in the face of tightening Western sanctions.
The Islamic Republic is under intense financial pressure from U.S. and European trade restrictions imposed over its disputed nuclear programme.
The bans have led to a sharp drop over the past year in its oil exports, a major source of hard currency earnings and revenues for the government.
The Iranian rial currency has also plunged over fears the central bank will not be able to defend its value, making imports more difficult and more expensive.
Iranian traders will no longer be able to export goods including wheat, flour, sugar, and red meat, as well as aluminium and steel ingots, according to a letter from Deputy Industry Minister Seyyed Javad Taghavi published in Iranian media on Tuesday.
The letter also said a further list of banned goods would be announced later.
The Mehr news agency said the ban includes the re-exportation of some goods imported with government-subsidised dollars.
The Iranian government provides dollars at a rate of 12,260 rials each for specified priority goods. On the open market, dollars cost around 32,000 rials.
Many of Iran's basic imports are transported by sea via container ships.
Food and consumer items are not targeted by sanctions but a growing number of Western shipping companies, are pulling back from trade with Iran due to the complexities of deals, whilst also fearing losing business elsewhere.
This month shipping line Maersk said it was stopping port calls to the country.
According to the World Trade Organization, nearly 85 percent of all of Iran's exports in 2011 were fuels and mining products.
(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by John Stonestreet)