Ancient records indicate that rice has been cultivated in Iran since the first century BC. Today, Iran is a mid-sized rice producer, with 3.3 million tonnes of irrigated paddy being harvested in 2003 from an area of some 560,000 ha.
Iran is the land of fragrant, aromatic Sadri varieties, which are unique to that part of the world and in high demand among Iranian consumers, who give top priority to the quality of their cooked rice. Some 80% of the cultivated rice area lies in two major Northern provinces, Guilan and Mazandran, near the Caspian Sea. The crop is sown immediately after the Nouroz New Year celebrations in March and harvested in September using both manual labour and combine harvesters..
Rice production is steadily increasing, mainly due to widespread adoption of improved high-yielding and disease-resistant varieties. Several new high yielding rice varieties - such as Khazar, Nemat, Neda, Fajr, Azar, Kadous, Dorfak and Shafagh - have been released with blast resistance and improved cooking quality. Key research areas for Iranian rice scientists include hybrid rice technology, molecular breeding and site-specific nutrient management.
An integral part of Iranian culture, rice dishes play an important role in marriage ceremonies and parties (Zereshk Polow), funerals (Kishmish Polow) and New Year celebrations (Sabzi Polow, with fried fish). Mouth-watering traditional dishes include Nan Berenji shortbread and Koofteh Berenji, made with ground meat and walnuts.