U.S. ban on Iranian pistachios helps California farmers

October 4, 2010

According to The Huffington Post, California farmers may be the big beneficiaries of a U.S. ban on Iranian pistachios that began Sept. 29. President Barack Obama signed the ban on July 1 in response to Iran’s nuclear policies. It went into effect as California’s farmers were in the midst of their harvest.

The United States and Iran have been vying for the title of No. 1 pistachio producer. California, which grows more than 95% of U.S. pistachios, has doubled acreage devoted to the nut in the past decade. Bad weather in Iran also has helped put the U.S. in the top spot in the past couple of years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The ban leaves the domestic market, worth $700 million, almost exclusively to U.S. growers. “This is a big bonus to our growers,” said Richard Matoian, Executive Director of the Western Pistachio Association, a marketing board that represents growers in California, Arizona, and New Mexico. “Of course, we still have to see how this affects us in foreign markets. Those Iranian pistachios need to go somewhere.”

Two-thirds of the U.S. crop is typically sold overseas, and the USDA expects exports to increase 10% this year. Overall, the crop is estimated at 360 million lbs this year. Matoian said he expects production to double by 2017.

Those in the pistachio industry said competition between the Iran and the U.S. may now be focused in foreign markets. California pistachio growers have long exported to Europe but now have their sights set on Asia. Sales of U.S. pistachios in China have increased from $5 million to $50 million in the past five years, Matoian said.

The Huffington Post article