The International ban on Iranian oil cost the country around 40 billion dollars in 2012, according to the EU data.
But despite this huge shortfall in Iran’s income, officials have some good news. Amid harsh sanctions, non-oil exports have increased by at least 30 per cent from a year ago.
“What may look like a bad thing may actually play a positive role. We’ve been asking our government for many years to decrease dependence on oil to at least 50 percent. It was too high, like 80 percent making our economy too vulnerable. Some say today is a historical opportunity to finally get rid of this dangerous oil dependence”, says professor of economics and former Iranian parliament member Mohammad Khoshchehreh.
And Iran actually has a lot of alternative resources to feed from. From well-known carpets, to dates, via minerals and stones.
But one industry in particular appears to be thriving these days.
Iran’s famous pistachios have been going through tough times in the last couple of years. Heavy frosts and terrible droughts have been damaging large parts of the harvest. But this year, with the country under tough economic sanctions, pistachios are doing better than ever.
“Our currency, rial, fell by almost 40 percent in October, that’s shocking, never happened before. But I sell pistachios, both at home and abroad, and I benefited from price rises - I saw a 300 percent increase in profit comparing with the previous year”, Gholamreza Sajjadian, a pistachio plantation owner, told RT.
Iranian pistachios are exported to more than a hundred countries worldwide.
Thousands of industry workers also benefit, which help them overcome the country’s highest ever inflation.
“The amount of production and price of pistachios affect our salaries. Every year they add 10-20 percent to my salary - this year I have some bonus’ to my daily payments”, Fatemeh, a pistachio production factory employee, says.
Producers seem to be more protected than exporters. While international sanctions don’t directly target the food industry, current measures affect the banking system making financial transactions a hard nut to crack.
“They also penalize the banks that are not in US and Europe, they may be in China or South America, they penalize them for dealing with Iran - that’s the main problem, which is actually illegal”, explains Foad Izadi, professor at the faculty of world studies at the University of Tehran.
Iranian producers say a good pistachio is a smiling one - its shells should be half-opened. But now they add that a good pistachio is the one that manages to earn some cash for its country.
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