The importance of pistachio productivity growth
Dubbed as “green gold” in the eastern province of Gaziantep, the pistachio (“Antep pistachio”) is a strategic product for Turkey, along with the hazelnut.
Turkey is the home of the pistachio, as well as Iran and Afghanistan.
This is a product that has been cultivated in the upper Euphrates River valley for thousands of years.
After the U.S. and Iran, we are the third pistachio producer in the world.
However, our kind is quite special with its taste, smell and delicate shape.
It is not possible to imagine the famous Gaziantep “baklava” without pistachios inside it. The baklava itself was patented when the southeastern province of Gaziantep was included in UNESCO’s “cities of gastronomy” list.
On the other hand, the consumption of this strategic product tends to rise across the world.
According to a recent report published by California State University’s agricultural science and technology department, the consumption of pistachio between 2015 and 2017 increased dramatically.
Consumption rises as US says it’s good for health
According to the report based on U.S.’s export figures, the reason behind the growth in the consumption is that pistachios are gradually becoming more popular due to its benefits for health, like stabilizing blood sugar and decreasing the risks of heart diseases.
It also includes more protein than meat.
For years, locals from Gaziantep have mentioned the benefits of pistachio for health.
The world had not heard of it until the U.S., which exports 70 percent of pistachio, released a report.
According to the aforementioned report, China, South Korea, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and India are countries where consumption increased the most.
In China, consumption increased 182 percent in the last three years. There, nearly 96.6 percent of the market is under U.S. control.
The share of the U.S in the market increased to 45.4 percent in 2017.
This share was just 16 percent in 2015. Hence it is possible for one to wonder whether this had a major impact on the Turkish pistachio.
We have problems with low productivity rates
Looking back at Turkey, it is said that our production will exceed 200,000 tons in 2018.
A year ago, 50,000 tons were produced.
The reason behind this is that the pistachio exists one year and disappears the next year in Turkey.
While pistachio is rising as a popular trend in the world, the share of Turkey in the world’s pistachio production is only 12 percent.
The reason is that we could not overcome the “low productivity” problem in pistachio cultivations.
In this manner, a project conducted by Nestle Damak (the first brand in the world which mixed chocolate and pistachio), in partnership with the Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion for the Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats (TEMA) is significant.
The project began in 2011. The other day we were in pistachio fields in Gaziantep with Nestle and TEMA teams.
We had conversations with mostly female workers who came to collect pistachios early in the morning.
In the first phase of the project, the productivity rates increased up to 49 percent thanks to a series of education programs organized for local producers about sustainable agriculture implementations and efforts to control soil erosion and to eradicate harmful insects.
In the second phase of the project which is centered in the Barak Plain, the increase in productivity is around 30 percent, according to project representatives.
3.2 million liras in eight years
TEMA Vice President Hikmet Öztürk explained the low productivity growth rates in the second phase. “We were active during the first phase in pruning, rejuvenating and spraying in the pistachio fields. In the second phase, we withdrew our control over the producers so that they can find their own ways,” he said.
According to Şenol, the pistachio producers lean more toward the sustainable agriculture implementations, in comparison with the eight years before.
“Our villager was confused because of the contradictory statements of the pesticide vendors and the chamber of agriculture. Now they trust us,” he said.
Due to high success levels of the project, Nestle Damak decided to initiate the third phase.
One would wish that, in the third phase, the public sector grasps the strategic value of the product better to encourage young people to produce it.
Why can Turkey not also have a share in the increasing pistachio consumption in the world?