Turkish gold sales to Iran in March soared over 30 times and gold companies said Iranians were turning to gold for savings and possibly trade as Western sanctions tighten.
Sanctions to force Iran to curb its nuclear program have targeted its energy and banking sectors and new measures from both the United States and European Union take effect in July, aimed at strangling Tehran’s foreign earnings. The sanctions have made neighboring Turkey an ever more important channel for the Islamic republic. Data from Turkey’s Statistics Institute on Thursday showed gold exports to Iran rose to nine tons, worth $480 million, in March, from 286 kilograms a year earlier and compared to just 30 kilograms in February this year. They were the highest monthly exports to Iran since records started in 2010. Total gold exports were 11.1 tons in March. “It wouldn’t be wrong to say Iran chooses Turkey for gold imports because of embargoes,” said Gökhan Aksu, vice chairman of Istanbul Gold Refinery, one of Turkey’s biggest gold firms. “Iranians prefer jewels and precious stones to protect the value of their money and escape instability,” he told Reuters. Turkey’s trade with Iran is politically sensitive and one gold company official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said gold could also be in use for trade as sanctions made regular currency transactions harder. “Some payments may be made in gold because of problems in transferring money to Iran,” he said. “For the most part, I think gold may be replacing money transfers in trade with Iran.”