California’s 2015 Pistachio Crop Could Be Down Significantly

Early indications suggest 2015 may yield a poor harvest for California pistachio growers. A shortage of chilling hours is largely to blame though the drought is not without complicity in the matter.

Growers cite a trifecta of chilling hours, water availability and water quality for what looks to be a poor crop, which could be down as much as 70 percent in California, according to estimates.

One bright spot seems to be Arizona as this year’s crop could yield close to last year’s, according to Jim Zion, managing partner with Meridian Growers in Fresno, Calif.

“We’re seeing some orchards in California with up to 70 percent blanking,” Zion says.

Nut size also appears small, Zion said. Other issues affecting the crop appear to be erratic maturity, which could extend the harvest and force growers to shake trees more than once. Such is not the case across the board as Zion said some California orchards “definitely look better than others.”

Nuts with closed shells could also present a problem for marketers this season.

Zion cautions that crop size and other issues will be easier to judge once harvest is under way in September. Still, he predicts “a difficult year for marketing.”

Pistachio grower and Pioneer Nursery co-owner Corky Anderson agrees that the crop “will be short this year.”

Despite the woeful news within the pistachio industry this year, growers have generally enjoyed positive trends marketing the popular tree nut in the past several years. Since the formative days of the American Pistachio Growers organization, exports have risen by several hundred percent while domestic consumption is up 16 percent.

According to Judy Hirigoyen, vice president of global marketing for American Pistachio Growers, Asia, five countries in Europe and the United States remain the target markets for American pistachios. Total exports to APG target markets since 2003 are up over 700 percent.

In spite of what could be a bad year for pistachio growers, APG Executive Director Richard Matoian says returns to pistachio growers remain among the highest of the big-three tree nuts – pistachios, almonds and walnuts – grown in California.

Source: Todd Fitchette, Western Farm Press

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