The U.S. and Iran Remain the Strongest Pistachio Exporters in the World

Other Tree And Bush Fruits And Nuts August 02, 2015
Author: Olga Minchina
Account Manager

The U.S. and Iran dominated in global pistachio production and trade. In 2013, Iran exported 26% of its total pistachios output. Of this amount, 50% was supplied to China.

In 2013, the U.S. and Iran were the main global suppliers of pistachios with a combined share of 45.5% of global exports. However, the fastest growing suppliers from 2007 to 2013 were Turkey (+26.3% per year). The U.S. strengthened its position in the global export structure, from 16% in 2007 to 35% in 2013.

China (40.5%) and, distantly, Germany (11.9%), the Russian Federation (4.6%), Italy (3.8%) and the Netherlands (3.7%) were the main destinations of pistachio imports in 2013, together making up 64.5% of global imports. The share of China increased significantly (+17%), while the share of the Netherlands illustrated negative dynamics (-2%). The shares of the other countries remained relatively stable throughout the analyzed period.

The agricultural demands of the pistachio tree confine it to limited locations. Only a handful of areas on the planet can be defined as economically feasible for pistachio tree plantations.

Being a country with a deeply entrenched tradition of growing pistachio trees, and with an ideal climate for them, Iran is the biggest producer of pistachio nuts. Commercial cultivation of these trees dates back over a century ago, and has been on an upward trend ever since.

In Iran, pistachio plantations are commonly harvested by hand. Despite enormous production volumes, yield has been gradually decreasing, owing to a serious disease triggered by the low quality of well water for irrigation of the orchards. This issue stems from excessive state permissions to drill deep wells in decreasing water level areas. The problem is exacerbated by inheritance laws which have separated the plantation units into smaller plots of land.

At present, the Iran Pistachio Association is developing a new model of pistachio planting by corporations in areas with better access to water, which will help to modernize pistachio production. Iran strives to flood the global market with pistachios, and this transition from traditional farming to modern high-capacity factories has already started.

U.S. farmers, having increased their pistachio acreage twofold over the last decade, have cause for concern. However, California farmers can be comforted by the fact that Iran is likely to experience obstacles selling pistachios into the EU and the U.S. due to sanctions, as well as pistachio contamination from aflatoxin.

Aflatoxin is a toxic chemical triggered by fungus, and its contamination is a common risk in agriculture, particularly in warmer regions. Regulation (EC) 1152/2009 outlines specific conditions for imported food from outside the EU. The Regulation currently includes pistachios from Iran and Turkey, peanuts from China, Egypt and Brazil and almonds from the U.S.

Recent research, though, has shown that contamination of Iranian pistachios is low, as significant progress has been achieved by Iran in controlling its aflatoxin issue.

Iranian pistachios have been prohibited in the U.S. intermittently over the last thirty years. Western sanctions, aimed to hinder oil and gas trade, included limitations on banking and shipping operations, and, as a result, are limiting Iran's ability to sell its pistachios in Europe. However, some Iranian pistachios are finding their way into the European market via Turkey.

Source: World: Pistachios - Market Report. Analysis And Forecast To 2020