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U.S. Hopes to Replace Iran as Israel’s Pistachio Provider

California pistachio growers hope to replace Iran as Israel’s primary pistachio provider, according to a report in Monday’s Miami Herald.
By Yehudah Lev Kay
First Publish: 3/23/2009, 4:49 PM

California pistachio growers hope to replace Iran as Israel’s primary pistachio provider, according to a report in Monday’s Miami Herald. Israelis consume the largest amount of pistachios per person in the world, and the local market is worth approximately 20 million dollars a year.

Iranian pistachios have traditionally been cheaper in Israel than their U.S. counterparts, and have thus kept America’s share of the market to only 300,000 dollars. Although Israel technically has a trade embargo with Iran, the pistachios made their way to the country through Turkey.

The California based Western Pistachio Association has lobbied U.S. officials for over ten years to stop the Iranian pistachios from reaching Israel. In 1997, then-Secretary of State Madeline Albright spoke to Israeli officials about the issue, but to no avail.

Last April, U.S. Ambassador Richard H. Jones told Israeli officials that “reports of Iranian pistachios entering Israel are attracting increased attention in the U.S. Congress and media, and are a source of embarrassment to our governments.”

The Pistachio growers were also able to lobby Californian Congressman Howard Berman on the issue who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He was able to provide the final boost and convince Israeli officials to change their policy.

Israel has now leveled a 23 percent tax on all non-U.S. pistachios which renders the U.S. variety cheaper than its competitors.