Iran’s Pistachio Export Ban May Backfire on Tehran

The latest sign that international sanctions against Iran may be effective could also backfire in unexpected ways.

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Chana Ya'ar,

Superbowl commercial for Wonderful Pistachios
Superbowl commercial for Wonderful Pistachios

The latest sign that international economic sanctions against Iran are having an effect could also backfire in unexpected ways -- possibly on the streets of Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Pistachios, a primary Iranian product, has just been banned for export.

The Tehran government made the decision – scheduled to last six months – in order to reduce the price of the product, which has doubled in the country,  and increase the local supply.

The green-colored nut is used in numerous Persian dishes, especially for the upcoming New Year, Nowruz, and is likely to be in high demand.

But Iranian chamber of exports chairman Asadollah Asgaroladi told the FARS news agency last week the move may prove costlier to Iran that the ayatollahs intended.

California began in 2009 to grow its own pistachios in hopes of replacing Iran as Israel’s primary pistachio provider. But Iranian pistachios somehow continued to make their way to Israel, via Turkey, despite the international ban several years ago, due to their cheaper price.

Since that time, however, Israel imposed a high import tax on all non-U.S. pistachios in order to level the playing field, thus giving preference to the American exporters. 

Iranian exporters fear that California growers and others will attempt to expand their market elsewhere as well, in the face of the vacuum  provided by the ayatollahs’ six month pistachio export ban.