0143 GMT May 07, 2021
"The IPA estimated in its June meeting that annual pistachio production will reach 170,000 tons, of which about 80 percent will be exported," Farhad Agah told Iran Daily.
China is the main importer of Iranian pistachios while the other buyers of the nut include the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the EU, India and some Arab states.
According to official figures, more than 200,000 tons of pistachios were harvested last year. This shows a decline in the production of the nut in the current year.
Listing some of the reasons for the drop in pistachio production, Agah pointed out, "Pistachio trees have 'fertile' and 'infertile' years. This means that they yield more products in one year and less in the next. This year is among 'infertile years'."
He further said adverse weather conditions have impacted pistachio output.
The IPA official further said 'lygaeus pandurus' — a species of 'seed bugs' — has impeded pistachio production.
Iran is a top pistachio producer and exporter. Cities in provinces such as Kerman, which is a hub of pistachio production, have become more prosperous because of the crop. However, drought and unconstrained farming have taken a devastating toll on the industry.
The shortage of surface water has prompted farmers to dig deep wells thus further depleting underground water reserves.
Unofficial figures show that there are 300,000 illegal wells in Iran, which pump 20 billion cubic meters of water every year.
In 2013, Iran's Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey showing that Kerman Province was losing about 20,000 hectares of pistachio farms every year to desertification.
The government is studying financial incentives to encourage water conservation. One such plan is to provide funds to farmers to buy modern irrigation equipment, but changing ingrained attitudes will take time.
Agah said water shortage has reduced pistachio production in the southern province of Kerman as well as the central provinces of Yazd and Semnan. He, however, said horticulturalists in the west, east and around the capital Tehran are harvesting more pistachios in their new gardens.
Traditionally, Iran has a strong clout in the pistachio market but has tocompete with the US to become the biggest grower. Nonetheless, sales of Iranian pistachios to the US and Europe have been hindered by sanctions. The lifting of sanctions followed by last year's nuclear deal between Tehran and the major world powers has raised hope that the Persian Gulf country will be able to dominate global markets.
This will be possible through comprehensive planning to boost pistachio production and overcoming political obstacles such as those pertaining to sanctions.