Courtesy of American PIstachio Growers
Pistachio growers in the San Joaquin Valley are wrapping up their harvest of a bumper crop that’s set to easily surpass the record 555 million pounds produced in 2012.
Growers are taking heavy hauls while finding very little insect damage, said Richard Matoian, executive director of the Fresno-based American Pistachio Growers.
The group has estimated this crop will end up weighing in at between 650 million and 800 million pounds.
“As I’ve talked with growers, the harvest has gone really well across the board,” Matoian said. “There’s no trailer-busters or over-the-top huge crops, but every orchard seems to be running pretty heavy.”
Trees were loaded with nuts after achieving sufficient chill hours last winter for the first time in three years and after last winter’s rains improved drought conditions in many orchards.
The big crop is a contrast to last season, when the drought and a lack of winter chilling hours caused growers to encounter an inordinate amount of “blanks” — fully formed shells in which a nut never developed.
This year’s percentage of blanks was closer to normal, or about 10 percent of the crop, Matoian said. What growers are dealing with this season is closed shells, but they can open them up mechanically, he said.
“The other thing I’m hearing is that staining on the shells is low,” he said. Hulls that adhere to the pistachio shell can cause discoloration, which can affect quality, he said.
While walnut and almond growers in California are trying to rebound from a steep drop in prices, wholesale pistachio prices from last year to this year are only off about 15 percent, Matoian said.
Growers have initially been guaranteed between $1.70 and $1.80 per pound, but that will likely go up via a negotiated “marketing bonus” at the season’s end. Farms ended up receiving roughly $3.50 per pound for their 2014 crop.
Matoian expects the worldwide market to be “pretty much on par with last year,” when California’s light crop was offset by big crops in other parts of the world. This year, it’s California that has the big crop, he said.
“We’re going to be able to regain a lot of export-country share that we had lost in the last year,” Matoian said. “That’s my belief.”