Nuts about Nuts – the politics of Pistachios

 In Food For Thought, Uncategorized

I read an interesting blog post today about one unexpected consequence of the current USA-Iran talks on sanctions relief for Iran – a potential threat to the Californian pistachio industry.

Iran used to be the world’s largest exporter of top-quality pistachios. Yes, top quality pistachios – not the chewy, bland, beige nuggets that turn up in our supermarkets these days. Iranian pistachios are crunchy, creamy and bright green. In Persian food, pistachios are used to adorn everything from rice to ice-cream. You can even make a delicious Pistachio Soup by grinding them finely in a food processor and cooking them with leeks, garlic, vegetable or chicken stock and a little orange juice.

Anyway, according to this recent article on Mother Jones, after the 1979 Iranian revolution led to trade sanctions between the USA and Iran, Iranian pistachios were no longer available in large amounts in the USA. Sensing a gap in the market, California producers spotted a business opportunity and started planting substantially more pistachio groves in the state, leading to California becoming one of the largest producers of pistachios in the world. By 2014, Californian acreage for pistachio growing had expanded nearly ten-fold in growth since the late 70s.

The article goes on to say that Californian farmers could be the biggest losers of an open market between the USA and Iran, as Iranian pistachio production might once again dominate the global pistachio industry. According to Paul Iddon in his follow up article in the News Hub this current twist is just part of a long history of competition between Iran and California over the global pistachio trade.

You can read more about the history of  subject by reading the articles above but what they both bought up for me was just how much of an impact sanctions relief could have on Iranian exports all over the world. And how exciting that could be for Iranians.

Suffocated for decades by international sanctions, Iran’s export and manufacturing industries have been crippled. What was a middle-income country with some of the finest agricultural products, artistic handicrafts and yes, of course, oil, has been plunged into poverty as a result of sanctions with ordinary people being hit the hardest as pawns in an international political power game. Now, hopefully soon, the opportunities will arise again for Iran to be able to shine on the international stage, offering the world some its most exquisite treasures; from saffron and spices, to pomegranates and pistachios, to carpets and handicrafts. I have no doubt the world will be a better place for it.

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