The Coming Pistachio War

At the airport en route to Fes, Morocco I grabbed up a copy of my favorite local rag, Jeune Afrique, which is a sort of alternate reality African version of the Economist, still carrying a torch for the deceased, assassinated, corrupted and otherwise retired liberators of colonial Africa, from Kenyatta and Lumumba right through to Mugabe, who appears on the most recent cover complete with his Hitler mustache, above the headline "Should Mugabe be defended?" (Thank the good gracious Lord that even Jeune Afrique suggests that he cannot be, but boy do they tread gently down the path leading to this inevitable conclusion.)

Amongst other delightful stories is the delicious, facetious conspiracy theory that the United States wants to bring down Iran not because of its alleged nuclear warmaking ambitions, nor even because of its oppressive totalitarian ayatollahs, but rather to end Iran's domination of the international pistachio trade. Iran is the world's top producer, furnishing most of the middle east, including sworn enemies like Israel, with this very best of the world's salted nuts. They also furnish Sahadi's, on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. California is number two. At Sahadi's, the domestic pistachios, although much cheaper, are spurned by nut sophisticates.

At risk of being denounced as a terrorist, both my journalistic integrity and refined palate demand that I recognize the Iranian product as superior to the Californian, which, although plumper and more uniform in size and shape, is but a bland and mushy bean when compared with the nutty toothsomeness of its wrinkled, salty and irregular Persian cousin.

Notwithstanding, and according to Jeune Afrique, Stewart Tuttle, spokesperson for the US embassy in Tel Aviv, a proud native of the Golden State, decried the local consumption of Iran's pistachios, which arrive in Israel via the back door of Turkey, saying "I think Israel should be consuming American pistachios and not Iranian ones."

UPDATE: The only other major media running this story, besides me and JA, appears to be Haaretz, the Israeli broadsheet that rarely finds much common ground with Jeune Afrique. Their pistachio coverage, picked up off the AP wire, is here. Those who might blame me for plagiarizing will have to take my word for it that it is purely coincidental that both my and this account use the Tuttle quote as a closer.

UPDATE: Interesting case study HERE.


Andrian said...

Having picked up on the cutting edge reporting of A Brooklynite on the Ice I have just followed up on the pistachio war, which is still raging. To bring some moderate perspective I interviewed Prof. Dr. Bekir Erol Ak from the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Harran who is the organizer of the V. International Symposium on Pistachios and Almonds that will take place in 2009 in Sanliurfa (Turkey).

And since I did pick up on the story here it is of course more than fair to publish the unedited version of this interview here:

- Do you already know the main topics to be discussed during the Symposium in 2009?

This symposium will be held by me in Sanliurfa. Main topics are that everything such as Cultivars and breeding, Propagation and rootstocks, Physiology and Nutrition, Pollination and Fruit set, Orchard management, Harvesting and processing, Pest and Phytopathological problems, economics and marketing in the world, and Country Situations.

- What are the current challenges in pistachio trade and growing?

These subjects will be discussed during symposium. This Symposium will be fifth. Last one was held in Iran. The new growing systems are applying in Turkey such as irrigation, and other horticultural practices are applying. Pistachio trade is another subject. Hygenic condition during processing is very importan because of Aflatoxin problem.

- Does climate change/global warming have an impact on pistachio growing?

Not yet. Global warming is not effects pistachio production nowadays.

- How do pistachio growers worldwide see the effforts of the US to put tariffs and embargoes on Iranian pistachios?

I have no more knowledge or what kind of tariffs and embargoes for pistachio nut. Could you send me knowledge about it.
But 50 % Pistachio production of the world belong to Iran. According to last four years production (2002-2005); the production values in Iran is over 242 000 tons (47.46 %) The second country, USA 119 000 tons it covers 23.40 % and third country is Turkey with yield of 54 000 tons with 10.52 % of total production. Iran is great exporter (62.7 %) among to pistachio producer countries.

>I have just supplied the Professor with some background material on the pistachio war, any follow-up will be published first here.

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