EghtesadOnline: Around 123,000 tons of pistachios worth $1.2 billion were exported from Iran during the nine months since the beginning of the current crop year (September 23, 2017, to June 2018), registering a 10.8% and 50% increase in weight and value respectively compared with the similar period of the previous crop year, the head of Iran Pistachio Association said.
Pistachio crop year starts in September every year and ends in the August of the following year.
“The top eight export destinations were Vietnam with 25,000 tons, Hong Kong with 19,000 tons, Germany with 11,000 tons, the UAE with 9,000 tons, India with 7,000 tons, Iraq with 6,000 tons, Russia with 4,000 tons and Turkey with 4,000 tons,” Mahmoud Abtahi also told Financial Tribune.
Exports during the last crop year hit 118,000 tons worth around $1.04 billion, showing a decline of 15.7% and 20% in volume and value respectively year-on-year.
“Iranian pistachio is exported to almost all countries. Some countries might not be in the list of our export destinations because sometimes exports of the product are not directly made and instead reexported by our customers to these countries,” he added.
Abtahi believes pistachio exports will not be affected by the reimposition of economic sanctions.
Rather, he said, what has always influenced exports of the nut has been the amount of production.
Last year, Deputy Minister of Industries, Mining and Trade Mojtaba Khosrotaj, who doubles as the head of Trade Promotion Organization of Iran, told us that Iran supplies pistachio to more than 50% of the world markets.
Production to Decline This Year
Last crop year’s production, according to Abtahi, stood at 225,000 tons, indicating more than a 47% rise compared with the preceding year’s 153,000 tons.
“This year, production is estimated to see a drastic fall to stand between 50,000 tons and 55,000 tons due to the heatwave in the spring, causing damage to pistachio orchards on top of the persisting water shortage.”
The pistachio tree is an alternate bearing one, meaning it may produce a greater than average amount of crop one year, called “on-year”, and a lower than average amount the following year, called “off-year”.
Abtahi says this year is going to be a bad off-year.
Kerman Will Pull Though
In November 2016, Mohsen Jalalpour, the former head of Iran Pistachio Association, said the drought-hit pistachio orchards in Kerman Province were dying at a rapid pace.
“Until recently, the southern province accounted for 70% of Iran’s pistachio production, but the farms are on the brink of dying out,” he said.
“Kerman’s pistachio industry will last no more than 10 years.”
Jalalpour, who also used to head the Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, blamed water shortage and salinity for the impending misfortune.
“Water has been used excessively in Kerman over the past few years. Our resources have shrunk in a way that in the future, we will face difficulties in meeting the demand for even drinking water. The drought has taken its toll on Kerman’s pistachio farms. Every year, between 12,000 and 15,000 hectares of the farms disappear, while production in each hectare is also on a downward trend.”
Pistachio, he added, is currently cultivated in 19 provinces across the country, all of which are more or less dealing with the same issues.
Yet, Abtahi is of the opinion that water crisis and salinity are not issues of late. He told us that farmers across the country are struggling with water shortage, but this does not mean that cultivation of different crops will come to an end altogether.
“Production of the nut will sure decline, but this does not mean Kerman’s pistachio industry will be lost,” he said.
Iran’s pistachio production statistics as far back as 2008 (gathered and analyzed by Iran Pistachio Association) reveal that pistachio production in Iran experienced a fall in 2008 to around 90,000 tons from 267,000 tons in 2007 due to an extreme spring frost in 2008.
Iran’s 2018 pistachio crop has experienced yet another extreme weather shock this spring, which has resulted in an estimated yield (IPA estimate of mid-July 2018) of 55,000 tons.