Economy, Domestic Economy

Iran’s Pistachio Production Hub Under Serious Threat

Kerman Province once accounted for 70% of Iran’s pistachio production, but currently produces only 30% all the pistachio grown in the country.Kerman Province once accounted for 70% of Iran’s pistachio production, but currently produces only 30% all the pistachio grown in the country.

Iran’s pistachio accounts for $1.5 billion of a total of $2 billion worth of nuts exported from the country annually, said Asadollah Asgaroladi, a member of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture and an exporter of nuts.

“Iranian pistachio is exported to 85 countries, including all European countries,” he noted, adding that Iran’s main rival in the field is the US.

Kerman Province in southeast Iran is the country’s biggest producer of pistachio. The province once accounted for 70% of Iran’s pistachio production, but now produces only 30% all the pistachio grown in the country due to the severe water crisis facing the province, the Persian daily Shahrvand reported.

   Kerman’s Pistachio on the Line

Asgaroladi said Kerman’s pistachio is losing its quality and becoming more expensive to produce. 

“Its production is also declining, so I won’t be far off-track in saying that we have lost the international market to our American rival,” he said. 

“Circumstances surrounding pistachio production have deteriorated to an extent where producers and merchants are taking recourse to cultivating the nut in other cities.”

The seasoned businessman said the soils of many areas in the country have been tested to see if they are fit to replace Kerman as a production hub. 

“The provinces of North and South Khorasan as well as a number of cities, including Damghan, Saveh, Zarand, Qazvin and Karaj, have been chosen, and since the risk of water crisis is a lesser issue in these areas, pistachio cultivated in these cities would enjoy better quality.

According to Mohsen Jalalpor, the former head of ICCIMA and the incumbent head of Iran’s Pistachio Association, Iranian pistachio cultivation will stop in Kerman within 10 years.


   Pressing Issue of Water Crisis 

Mohammad Reza Bakhtiari, the former head of Kerman Regional Water Authority, affiliated with the Ministry of Energy, said groundwater withdrawal in Kerman is almost three times as much as the global redline, and nearly six times as much as the ideal average.

“At present, even providing the residents of Kerman with potable water is a challenge,” he said.

Bakhtiari added that illegal and unrestrained digging and withdrawals from wells in the province have increased over the past few decades. 

These have led to the depletion of groundwater resources, degradation of water quality and an increase in water salinity.

“Although the disastrous situation arising from the drying up of pistachio orchards is evident, water management in Kerman has yet to be revamped,” he said.

“To make matters worse, precipitation has decreased from 250 millimeters per annum a decade ago to 204 millimeters in the past four years. Yet, flood irrigation is still practiced across the country, a method not used even in countries with an average precipitation of 1,000 millimeters.”

Bakhtiari said every year, pistachio trees in 12,000 to 15,000 hectares of orchards die in Kerman due to water shortage.

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