Source: Press TV
Iran is the biggest exporter pistachio nuts in the world.
Iran dominates the world market for exports of split-shelled pistachios but it is facing a stubborn competition from the Americans.
Raw, roasted, salted and savory, the Iranian nibble has no rivals for quality but the US has ousted the Middle Eastern country as the largest producer of pistachio nuts.
Iran, however, is still the biggest exporter and it asserted its position last year by selling more than $1.5 billion of pistachio nuts.
China is the biggest customer, accounting for 50% of Iran's pistachio nut sales. Other major clients are Japan, Hong Kong, the European Union and Arab countries, according to an official at the Ministry of Agriculture, Ali Mohseni.
The United States was once a key destination of Iranian pistachios but Washington imposed a ban on those imports in 2010.
Iran is now facing a cutthroat rivalry from the US for the position of the top pistachio producer. Over the past decade, the US has doubled the tract of land devoted to pistachio plantations, mainly in California which grows 95% of the American nut.
Photos: Pistachio Harvesting and Production in Kerman, Iran
Iran's major pistachio growers are in the southeastern Kerman province which has an ideal climate and soil for pistachio farming.
While production of the nut in Iran dates back to the fifth century before Christ, that history does not exceed a couple of decades in the United States.
"We are in a neck and neck competition with America," Mohseni said.
"Figures for American pistachio production have not been released yet but their output is possibly 10% more than ours," he said.
Iran produced some 235,000 tons of pistachio nuts last year, up 17% against the year before. The country exported more than 134,000 tons, which rose 17% year-on-year.
Pistachios, carpets and dates are among Iran's best non-oil hard currency earners. They give the country a valuable relief from US-led sanctions even as the figures are dwarfed by oil revenues.
Iran, however, faces a punishing drought and poor harvest which is threatening its agriculture, especially in the desert-like Kerman.
US agriculture authorities instead say they expect production to double by 2017.
Mohseni says despite a drop in precipitations and water resources and rise in water and soil salinity rates, Iran managed to increase its pistachio crop last year by applying better scientific and mechanical methods.
Agriculture officials say Iran has to move its pistachio orchards to the country's west where drought is less of an issue.
For now, the "pistachio war" between Iran and the US goes on but the quality of the Iranian nut maintains the upper hand.
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