Regions suitable for pistachio production are those with long, hot, and dry summers and mild winters, and the best geographical locations for pistachio cultivation are in 29 to 39° north latitude. Pistachio grows best in regions with an altitude of 2200-2800 meters above sea level, and the geographical distribution of pistachios in the world is mainly related to these climatic conditions.
Pistachio producing countries based on the latest statistics published in terms of production volume include the USA, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, India, China, Greece, Spain, Italy, Tunisia, Australia, Southern Europe, and desert countries of Asia and Africa. According to the geographical distribution of pistachios and the latest statistics, the largest share of this market, i.e. 771/494 tons, belongs to the USA, Iran, Hong Kong, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The main pistachio importers are China, Vietnam, Germany, Belgium, the UAE, Spain, and India.
Iran is the land of red gold (saffron), green gold (pistachio), sweet gold (dates), and black gold (petrolium). Known as one of Iran’s most valuable horticultural products, its third non-oil export commodity, and the first export commodity of its agricultural sector, pistachio is of particular economic importance among agricultural products. Historical records indicate that the first pistachio orchards were built in Khorasan in the 6th century AH and in the city of Beihaq (present-day Sabzevar), Iran, and eventually spread to the Mediterranean coast. Currently, pistachio cultivation area is reported to be 440,000 hectares (300,000 hectares of fertile orchards and 110,000 hectares of infertile orchards). The country’s pistachio production is an average of 220,000 tons. However, in 2018, it underwent a severe drop in tonnage. Provinces such as Kerman, Khorasan, Yazd, and Fars have the highest geographical distribution of pistachio in Iran.
The most famous pistachio varieties in Iran are Akbari, Kaleh Ghuchi, Ahmad Aghayi, Ohadi, Fandoghi, Badami Zarand, Momtaz, Khanjari Damghan, Shah Pasand, Daneshmandi, and Ghazvini.
The pistachio industry of the USA is a child born to an Iranian mother. Pistachio was brought from Iran to America in 1845 by Mr. Marson and was cultivated in California, Texas, and some other southern states. In 1880, pistachio became a popular product, and in the 1920s it was popularized as a favorite and luxurious snack in the United States. Despite two failures experienced by the pistachio industry in this country (the first failure occurred due to high manpower costs before mechanization, and the second failure stemmed from the susceptibility of the Atlantica variety to Verticillium wilt disease), the US pistachio industry now represents the best use of the three sides of the agricultural development triangle, including raw materials, machinery, and plant breeding. America is now recognized as the world’s first pistachio producer with the most economical pistachio orchards in the world. With the introduction of “Kerman” variety (Kerman is the name of a famous city in the south of Iran, where high-quality pistachios are produced), the first US commercially cultivated pistachios were harvested (680 tons) in 1976. However, the first US pistachios entered the international market in 1980 with a production of 12.2 tons. The American pistachio industry, despite its short lifespan, has the highest production per unit of harvested area compared to other countries and also has the most economical pistachio gardens in the world. The geographical distribution of pistachio is mainly in California, Arizona, and New Mexico. It is also worth noting that 98% of American pistachio orchards are located in California. In 2016, pistachio was California’s second-largest exported crop. In 2018, the country’s pistachio production was 450 tons. The total pistachio cultivation area is currently 220,000 hectares, including 130,000 hectares of fertile orchards and 90,000 hectares of infertile orchards.
Turkey is the second- and sometimes third-largest producer of pistachio. Regarding the geographical distribution of pistachio, it can be stated that 85% of Turkish pistachios are produced in the provinces of eastern Anatolia. 95% of Turkey’s pistachio production is produced in Ghaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Siirt, Adıyaman, Kilis, Mardin, Kahramanmaraş (Şanlıurfa alone supplies approximately 50% of the above-mentioned 95%). The remaining 5% of Turkish pistachio production belongs to the Aegean, Mediterranean, and Marmara regions. More than 90% of Turkish pistachio cultivation is located in arid regions in Turkey. The total area of fertile and infertile pistachio cultivation in this country is 328,804 hectares.
The “Uzun”, “kirmizi”, “Halebí”, and “Siirt” are the dominant pistachio varieties in Turkey.
Syria is the fourth-largest producer of pistachio, and its geographical distribution of pistachio includes the cities of Aleppo (with 16,000 tons of pistachio production in 2014), Hama, and Idlib (with 7,000 tons of pistachio production in 2014). The area under cultivation of this crop in Syria in 2018 was reported to be 55,669 hectares (6,470,000 fertile trees and 3,530,000 infertile trees). The number of pistachio trees in Syria is second to olive trees. In Syria, pistachio is called al-zahab al-ahmar (red gold).
“Ashuri” variety is one of the twenty most widely cultivated pistachio varieties in Syria, with a production level of 85%. It is one of the most famous and desirable pistachio varieties in Aleppo. Other pistachio varieties include Nab al-Jamal, al-Ajami, al-Vardani, and al-Nazwardi.
Afghan pistachio is known under different names such as Herati pistachio, Afghan pistachio, and wild pistachio. The geographical distribution of pistachio in Afghanistan continues as pistachio forests spread like a belt from the northeast of Afghanistan, i.e. Badakhshan, to the west of Herat and include regions such as Badghis (90,000 ha), Badakhshan, Takhar, Baghlan, Samangan (35,000 ha), Balkh, Jawzajan, Sar-e Pol, Faryab, and Herat. International statistics estimate the amount of pistachio production in Afghanistan over a five-year period from 2014 to 2018 to be between 5,000 and 10,000 tons, which is approximately 1% of world pistachio production. Currently, the total area of pistachio cultivation in this country is 80,000 hectares, including 14,000 hectares of pistachio forests in Herat, 6 hectares in Badghis, approximately 10,000 hectares of pistachio forests in Farah, and 6,000 hectares of fertile and infertile pistachio forests in Ghor state.
The geographical distribution of pistachio in Europe is mainly related to Italy, Greece, and Spain. The area of pistachio cultivation in these countries is 33,500 hectares (including 20,865 hectares of fertile pistachio trees) with a total production of 10780 tons.
Pistachio is considered a traditional crop in Italy. Sicily (Brontë), which supplies 90% of Italy’s pistachio production, is the main region in the geographical distribution of pistachio in this country. In recent years, the geographical distribution of pistachios has expanded to other areas in Sicily and Basilicata. Bianca (or Napultana) is the main pistachio variety in Italy.
Greece, as a European pistachio-producing country, has received a lot of attention and is progressing in this global market.
Spain is the largest pistachio producer in Europe, and the geographical distribution of pistachio is in Castilla-La Mancha region.