Iran Deal Could Impact California Pistachio Farmers

Pistachios (THOR / Flickr / CC / Cropped)
Pistachios (THOR / Flickr / CC / Cropped)

Pistachios are undoubtedly one of America’s favorite nuts, and a staple export for the Golden State. However, the pending nuclear deal with Iran has created growing concern within the industry that the crop’s otherwise relentless expansion and success in the marketplace could be stifled, should the United Nations end trade sanctions against Iran.

Translation? If these sanctions are lifted, Iran could start flooding the U.S. market with pistachios, challenging California farmers.

Pistachio crops in America were worth approximately $1.3 billion last year, according to Bloomberg, up from $195 million just 25 years ago. The tasty green-flesh nuts originate from Iran which naturally makes them susceptible to withstanding harsher, dryer climates–a tremendous asset in California’s crippling drought, where water use has been harshly cut in the Central Valley and elsewhere.

Pistachio production began in California around 1979, following the fall of the Shah, who was replaced by Islamic hardliner Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Until the fateful Iranian Hostage Crisis, Iran was the top global exporter of pistachio nuts.

Still, it remains to be seen just how much a potential opening of trade with Iran would affect the prices and sales of the nuts

This past March, the president of Wonderful Pistachios, Stewart Resnick, undaunted by Iran’s potential reemergence into the marketplace, pushed farmers to plant even more of the nuts, according to Western Farm Press, pointing to figures that show that net returns on the crops are more than double of those for almonds and walnuts.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz


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