Pistachio seeds are produced by the Pistachio tree that grows well in dry conditions. The plant is tolerant to saline soils and can survive in temperatures up to 48 °C (118 °F). Pistachio trees take seven to ten years to mature depending on the variety and climate. The seeds are consumed as food since they have a high nutritional content. Pistachio is produced in many countries including Iran, US, Turkey, Syria, China, Greece, Italy, and Afghanistan. However, the top global producers are US and Iran which accounted for 47% and 38% of the global production respectively in 2017/2018. In the recent past, production and consumption have increased consistently leading to the development of a multimillion-dollar pistachio industry.
Top Consumers of Pistachio
Turkey is the largest consumer of Pistachio with 130,202 metric tons consumed in 2016 alone. Such consumption represents an annual consumption of 1.64 kilograms per capita. The consumption was an increase from 119,256 metric tons in 2015. As a producer, Turkish pistachios are famous for being rich in nutritional content, uncompetitive quality, and distinctive flavor. Most of the seeds are grown in Sanliurfa and Gaziantep provinces. The shell of the pistachio is comparative dark in color, crunchy, and considerably sweet. Turkey imported an estimated 6,126 metric tons of pistachio in 2016. Most of the seeds are consumed domestically. Turkish nationals consume the seed as a snack or use it to make confectioneries, ice cream, or other bakery products. A small percentage is exported, mainly to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and few European countries.
The United States is the second highest consumer with a total of 93,432 metric tons per year. The popularity of pistachios combined with high-quality output has led to higher demand domestically. Americans have invented various pistachios products such as butter, cookies, crunches, and salads. The ever-increasing popularity has seen production rise gradually over the years. Following the introduction of the crop in the 1950s, commercialization took a while to be established. However, after the Islamic revolution in Iran, there was a strained political tie with America. The US, therefore, stopped importing pistachio from Iran thereby stimulating the growth of the industry. The growth meant that there was enhanced local marketing leading to more consumption.
Iran has grown steadily in pistachios consumption to 49,504 metric tons making it the third largest consumer. It has also captured vast markets in the Middle East with the major consumer being Syria. The country produces a variety of green and top quality kernel which is popular with pistachio consumers. Although Iran faced trade sanctions and restrictions which affected production and consumption, there has been an improvement in the overall product performance in the recent years. Though pistachios themselves were not among the sanctioned products, the restrictions posed trade challenges to Iranian farmers leading to expanded local consumption.
Pistachio has a cream colored hard outer shell while the seed is covered with a mauvish green skin. When ripe the color changes to yellow or red depending on the variety. Pistachios are known to have high nutritional content and dietary fiber. The main nutrients are proteins and vitamins. They also have a distinctive flavor and can be used to make different confectioneries. Pistachios are rich in saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats which make it an active ingredient in the production of ice creams, chocolates, salads, and other delights. They are also a great source of calcium, folate, and riboflavin. Pistachios can also be marketed while in the in-shell form, roasted, salted and packaged.