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Iran pistachio ban helps U.S. growers

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BILL RADKE: A new round of U.S. trade sanctions against Iran take effect today. It’ll be harder to get Persian rugs. And there’s a ban on Iranian pistachio imports. That’s good news for American pistachio growers, who faced a lot of competition from Iran. Marketplace’s John Dimsdale joins us live from Washington D.C. Hello John.

JOHN DIMSDALE: Good morning, Bill.

RADKE: Would it be wrong to ask you to give us this story in a nutshell?

DIMSDALE: In the mid-1980s, Iran was the world’s dominant pistachio grower and shipped 27 million pounds a year to the U.S. But California farmers have turned that around. Over the past year imports from Iran were down to a million pounds. Now, even that competition is going to disappear.

Gary Hufbauer at the Peterson Institute for International Economics says not only does the pistachio ban punish Iran for its nuclear weapons policies, it incidentally is a boost for the domestic pistachio industry.

GARY HUFBAUER: The U.S. growers are delighted by this. No doubt it provides a little additional political support for a huge foreign policy goal. And so there you have a bit of protection, higher pistachio prices for those who love those lovely little nuts.

RADKE: Very interesting. So does this, John, put an end to the competition for the pistachio market?

DIMSDALE: Well only domestically. The competition for foreign markets will probably step up some, now that Iran will have to divert its exports elsewhere. 75% of the pistachios grown in this country will be sent overseas, especially to China. China is a booming market. U.S. pistachio exports to China grew from $5 million to $50 million dollars just in the last five years.

RADKE: All right. Marketplace’s John Dimsdale live in Washington, thank you.

DIMSDALE: Thank you.

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