Preserving Iran’s Pistachio Legacy: Overcoming Challenges and Securing Global Market Dominance
Agricultural Exports Granted Exemption from Foreign Exchange Contracting Requirements
The Iranian Parliament exempts the export of agricultural products from the obligation of foreign exchange contract assignments. This decision was made during the public session of the Budget Bill for the year 2023. However, despite this exemption, there are still obstacles that need to be addressed in order to boost pistachio exportation. The governor of Rafsanjan emphasizes the need to overcome these obstacles and highlights the potential of pistachio production for non-oil exports. Furthermore, there is a concern that Iran has lost its dominant position in the global pistachio market, with countries like the United States and even Turkey taking its place. It is crucial to revive and expand export markets, particularly in African countries, Russia, and CIS nations, while also ensuring capital availability and eliminating unnecessary intermediaries.
Challenges in Iran’s Pistachio Exportation
Last year, pistachio orchards suffered significant damage due to floods and frost, resulting in a substantial decrease in production. This decline in production has created a serious challenge for the export-oriented pistachio market. To overcome this challenge, it is essential to implement measures to prevent frost damage, such as investing in specialized equipment and leveraging modern scientific knowledge. Moreover, climate change-related issues, including frost, heatwaves, and drought, must be addressed using research and science-based solutions.
The Potential of Iran’s Pistachio Production
Rafsanjan, known as the pistachio capital of the world, possesses approximately 80,000 hectares of pistachio orchards. However, recent years of drought and frost have posed numerous difficulties for farmers, and efforts should be made to address these issues. It is projected that Iran will produce around 200,000 tons of pistachios, with more than half of this production coming from Rafsanjan. Despite these challenges, the quantity of pistachio exports from Rafsanjan has reached 47,000 tons since the month of Mehr last year.
Supporting Farmers in Rafsanjan
The governor of Rafsanjan recognizes the need for support in both improving production and removing export barriers to access global markets. Providing financial resources and eliminating unnecessary intermediaries are crucial steps. Additionally, the establishment of new markets, such as in African countries, Russia, and CIS nations, requires special attention.
Iran’s Pistachio Industry Facing Competition from the US and Turkey
The head of the Agricultural Commission of Iran’s Chamber of Cooperatives highlighted the crucial issue of reviving Iran’s export markets in European countries, stating, “Unfortunately, the United States has entered this sector, even surpassing Iran, which was once the largest producer and exporter of pistachios in the world. Currently, we are the largest pistachio producer in terms of cultivation area, but we rank third in terms of production, with even Turkey surpassing Iran. Therefore, we must address this setback and rectify the existing challenges.”
Creating new markets and expanding into regions such as African countries, Russia, and the Commonwealth of Independent States (C.I.S.), or other mutually beneficial nations, is essential and requires special attention.
Furthermore, he emphasized the need for capital circulation and eliminating unnecessary intermediaries in this sector. A comprehensive set of activities should be undertaken to stimulate both production and export growth.
The Decline of Iran’s Pistachio Production and Export
Iran’s pistachio production has declined from 330,000 tons to 180,000 tons. Responding to the question about the current level of Iran’s pistachio production and exports, the official mentioned that Iran’s peak production in recent years exceeded 330,000 tons, while the lowest production recorded last year was around 180,000 tons. Presently, we export to over 60 different countries, with the highest volume of pistachio exports going to China and Hong Kong. It is worth noting that China is not a pistachio producer.
Expressing disappointment with the government’s lack of action in improving the situation, he pointed out that issues such as financial commitments and inadequate supply of necessary production inputs, especially fertilizers, have hindered production. The government has facilitated the transfer of water from the Persian Gulf to industries like the copper industry but has neglected the transportation of water from the Persian Gulf to pomegranate orchards in Rafsanjan. We have even proposed investment to the government, suggesting a 20-year credit for water supply from the Persian Gulf to the agricultural sector, which can be repaid.
Infrastructure development is also necessary, such as establishing a pistachio research center that can contribute significantly to enhancing productivity. Currently, the average pistachio yield in Iran is approximately 800 kilograms per hectare, while in the United States, it reaches around 3.5 tons per hectare. Therefore, a well-designed and expertly crafted support package is essential for this industry, one that is practical rather than existing merely on paper.
The Iranian government needs to address the existing challenges in pistachio exportation, reviving the once-dominant position of the country in the global market. Efforts should be made to overcome obstacles, including frost damage, climate change, and financial constraints. By investing in research, technology, and capital, Iran can regain its prominence and enhance pistachio production and exportation.
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