BANGKOK: More than 3.67 million tons of agricultural products worth $3.85 billion were exported from Iran during the eight months to Nov. 21, registering a 3.5% decrease in weight and more than 9% increase in value compared with the corresponding period of last year, the head of Agriculture Commission of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture said.
“Iran’s trade deficit in the agriculture sector stood at $3.17 billion for the eight-month period. The deficit was at $2.16 billion in last year’s corresponding period,” Kaveh Zargaran also told Financial Tribune.
Imports of agricultural products during the same period stood at around 12.57 million tons worth more than $7 billion, registering a year on year increase of 9% and 23% in weight and value respectively.
The official noted that the rise in trade deficit is due to the decrease in the export of apples and pistachios, and the increase in the import of staple foods such as rice, sunflower oil, palm oil, soybean, red meat, field corn, bananas, sugar, barley and soymeal.
Close to 68,680 tons of pistachios worth $628 million were exported during the eight-month period, registering a 22% and 20% decrease in weight and value respectively compared with last year’s corresponding period, Zargaran said.
The main customers of Iranian pistachio are the US, Ukraine, the UAE, Italy, Bahrain, Brazil, Bulgaria, Turkey, Canada, Qatar, Switzerland, France, Poland, Sweden, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Netherlands, Thailand, Japan, Romania and Hong Kong.
According to Deputy Minister of Industries, Mining and Trade Mojtaba Khosrotaj, Iran supplies more than 50% of the world pistachio market and its main rival in pistachio production is the US state of California.
Mahmoud Abtahi, chairman of the board of directors at the Iran Pistachio Association, noted that the amount of pistachio production in Iran in the last fiscal year halved to 180,000 tons, which is the main reason behind the decline in export this year.
Mohsen Jalalpour, the head of Iran Pistachio Association said between 8,000 and 12,000 hectares of Iran’s pistachio orchards are lost annually because of water shortage and soil salinity.
“Land under pistachio cultivation in Iran is currently close to 350,000 hectares while during the 2000s, the figure stood at more than 400,000 hectares,” he said.
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% of all the pistachio grown in the country due to the severe water crisis.