Pistachio is the most precious nut in the Mediterranean. Did you know that this green almond, which enhances pastries in the southern and eastern Mediterranean, originated in Persia? Since the boycott of the Iranian regime, American entrepreneurs have thrown themselves into mass production of pistachios and almonds, often to the detriment of their quality and producer prices. But in Gafsa, a province in southern Tunisia where you can still swim in Roman terms on sunny days, the cultivation of this nut has gained a lot of momentum in recent years, thanks to a suitable climate, agricultural investment subsidies and a fairly attractive yield.

Gafsa pistachio

The pistachio’s success with farmers in southern Tunisia stems not only from its prestige, but also from the fact that the pistachio tree is the most water-efficient fruit tree, making it highly suitable for arid zones. However, Tunisia still imports more pistachios than it exports. To understand this situation and find strategic solutions, we were commissioned by a consultancy firm in July 2023 to carry out a mission funded by the European Union. A multi-dimensional analysis of this value chain (functional, economic, social, environmental) enabled us to draw up a strategy and an action plan to enable the generation of additional for producers and their organizations, better-paid jobs for pickers and other service providers, a higher-quality product, and a more reliable, high-quality supply chain for Tunisian pastry-makers using this product. Our mission did not stop at the analysis stage, but laid the groundwork to give impetus to this dynamic, and to create links with buyers. The diagnosis of the value chain revealed that one of the main obstacles to this development was the still underdeveloped collective organization of producers for the collection and marketing of pistachios, and therefore the place taken by intermediaries in these functions, at the expense of the economic equilibrium of producers and the social status of pickers. A comparison of the different market segments for pistachios in Tunisia showed that the segment that paid producers the most was the pastry market, rather than the confectionery or dried fruit grocery markets. Contacts were therefore established with Sfax pastry-makers, with whom we had extensive discussions. The action plan provides for complementary actions, which should act in synergy to create a new dynamic through:

  • Strengthening the trading capabilities of agricultural producers’ organizations (OPA), by structuring the functions of collecting dried pistachios from producers, depulping, drying and hulling them to prepare finished products for different market segments. Putting OPAs in touch with Tunisian pasty makers on the one hand, and a bank enabling them to obtain campaign loans on the other, should enable them to realize the commercial opportunities represented by a product harvested and processed with quality.
  • Improving quality and productivity, and taking into account the positive environmental impact, are all part of an institutional ecosystem (agricultural development and training in particular) that is highly involved in the development of the sector. Nursery growers, in particular, must be able to document and guarantee the varieties marketed, and input suppliers must be able to offer products and services that correspond to organic farming.
  • Collaboration between players in the value chain is therefore fundamental to its dynamic, sustainable and equitable development. The valorization of by-products, notably pulp and shells, also offers economic development opportunities for other players. Progress actions have been defined, from the regularization of the status of pickers to agroecology, via the measurement of environmental impacts, to further improve them.





Summary: The still underdeveloped collective organization of producers for the procution and marketing of pistachios, and the role played by middlemen, currently represent the main obstacle to the sustainable development of this value chain. These conclusions and the action plan shared with the organizations and the European Union program illustrate the relevance of an approach to value chains cutting across scientific disciplines.


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