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EghtesadOnline: A total of 63,000 tons of pistachio worth $426 million were exported from Iran during the first half of the current Iranian year (March 21-Sept. 22), registering a 14.54% and 8.44% growth compared with the similar period of last year, according to Agriculture Ministry official, Darab Hassani.

“We expect the exports to reach 200,000 tons by the [fiscal] yearend [March 20, 2022],” he was quoted as saying by IRNA.

On average, Iran exports 80% of its total pistachio yields. Vietnam, Hong Kong, Germany, the UAE, India, Iraq, Russia and Turkey are Iran’s traditional export markets.  

Output Decline Over Drought

A total of 278,426 tons of pistachios are expected to be produced in Iran in the current Iranian year (March 2021-22) to mark an 80,000-ton decline compared with last year, the official had said earlier.

“The fall in production will be due to unfavorable climatic conditions experienced this year, including low precipitation levels, water shortage and extreme cold in spring and unprecedented high temperatures in the summer,” he said.

“Last year, 358,244 tons of pistachio were harvested from over 525,000 hectares of orchards across the country. At present, per capita pistachio consumption is around 700 grams per year.”

Pistachio is cultivated in 25 out of 31 Iranian provinces. Kerman, Khorasan Razavi, Yazd, Fars, South Khorasan, Semnan, Markazi, Qom, Sistan-Baluchestan, Tehran and Isfahan are the main producers.

The official noted that despite the water shortage, Persian pistachios have retained their top quality, taste and texture, and remain the best in the world.

Hassani stressed that “in the short run, water scarcity is expected to reduce production in Iran’s central and eastern provinces. But since the plant is resistant to soil salinity and needs little irrigation, predictions are that production will bounce back very soon. What is more, during the past years, new orchards have been planted in western and northwestern provinces that are now bearing fruit. This means production, and exports in turn, are to see a rise over the course of a few years.”

Iran and the US are the world’s biggest producers of pistachio. The US output has overtaken Iran’s in recent years, even though the quality of the Iranian crop is widely said to be superior to that of the US.

In addition, Iran has more diverse varieties of pistachio than the US.

Iranian pistachios have a world-renowned flavor that is unrivaled. This taste advantage is improved by roasting Iranian pistachios at higher temperatures, made by higher unsaturated oil content. This high-temperature roasting reduces any bacterial pollution, which may be existing in raw product.

According to Ratinkhosh R&D Team, Iranian pistachios have more capability for roasting. Due to their higher unsaturated oil content, they can be roasted at 160 to 180°C (hot stream temperature). Excellent roasting with higher temperature brings out the unique flavor of the pistachio.

Water Crisis

Iran’s agriculture sector faces a threat of water shortage.

In a recent report, Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture has warned agricultural officials of an imminent drought that would cripple the country’s agricultural activities and hamper economic growth in this sector in the current Iranian year (March 2021-22).

The ICCIMA report says precipitation levels have fallen drastically, Mehr News Agency reported.

The Majlis Research Center has released a list of Iranian provinces in critical state of water shortage: Isfahan, Hormozgan, Sistan-Baluchestan, Ardabil, Fars, Markazi and Khorasan Razavi.

Drought has inflicted 670 trillion rials ($2.4 billion) in losses on Iran’s agriculture sector since the beginning of the current crop year, according to Mohammad Mousavi, an official with the Agriculture Ministry.

Assessments carried out over 11.2 million hectares of farmlands in 30 provinces show 43% of the total losses pertained to the decline in production of agronomic crops, 26% to horticultural products, 13% to fisheries and livestock, and 11% to forage crops, he said in June.

“In addition, 4% of the total damage are to blame on challenges created in water transportation infrastructures, such as pools, pipes, aqueducts and springs, and 3% of losses can be attributed to water supply complications and the animal feed used by nomads,” he was quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.

Noting that the precipitation rate in the current crop year has decreased by 54% compared with last year and 41% compared with the long-time average, the official said, “Besides the decline in precipitation rate, the rise in heatwaves and evaporation, as well as the inappropriate distribution of rainfall, resulted in drought and its adverse consequences on the agriculture sector.

“Reports by Iran Meteorological Organization show 92% of the country have been affected by drought at different levels: 20% of the country’s area face extreme drought, 28% severe drought, 25% moderate drought and 19% of the country are going through stages of becoming abnormally dry. Only 8% of the country are in normal conditions,” he added.

Mousavi explained that the emergency plans put together by Agriculture Ministry underlines the management of strategic reserves, animal feed and essential goods in proportion to the decline in production.

“Easing pressure on groundwater resources and soil in the country, fair distribution of pressure or weight of water shortage in different sectors, when used as potable water, or in agriculture or industries sector, have been underscored in this plan,” he said.

 

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