Giant Crops Loom

Giant Crops Loom

The statistics are alarming at first glance. U.S. pistachio acreage, which is limited to three states, California, Arizona, and New Mexico, with the lion’s share in the Golden State, has been rising at a rapid rate. Total acreage climbed from 177,000 in 2007 to 215,000 in 2010. It’s estimated that another 15,000 acres were planted this past winter, bringing the unofficial total to 230,000.

It’s even more alarming when you realize that pistachios are one of the least precocious of tree crops, and don’t generally bear a crop until the trees are seven years old. That means there are some huge crops looming on the horizon, says Richard Matoian, the executive director of the Western Pistachio Association (WPA). “The industry figures indicate that 40% of total acreage is nonbearing, so we’re predicting larger crops in 2013 and 2014,” he says. “By 2017, we will have a doubling of the size of the crop. In 2009, the crop was 354 million pounds, and we believe we will be at 800 million by 2017.”

Growers aren’t panicking, though, for a couple of reasons. First, more and more health studies show that like other tree nuts, pistachios are a healthy snack. Second, and perhaps more importantly as a practical matter, is that people love pistachios. And they’re willing to pay for them. Consider that while the crop was up a whopping 48% in 2010 — pistachios are also very much an alternate bearing crop — the price still went up 25%. Growers received an average of $2.22 per pound last year, a new record.

Asia Promising

Growers are also confident because people in Southeast Asia and India especially seem to like pistachios. As the relatively large populations in those parts of the world continue adding income at a relatively rapid rate, they are becoming hugely important to marketers. For instance, China’s pistachio consumption went from $5 million-worth just six years ago to $109 million in 2010, says Matoian. “And that’s just one bright shining example,” he says.

Pistachio growers know that consumption must continue to increase in countries such as China and India, which just lowered its tariff on the crop, if they are going to profitably market those big crops that are coming. Because of that, they are changing their name. They have found the word “Western” in “Western Pistachio Growers” can be a little confusing. For instance, in Europe people think first of Western Europe. And when tested in Asia, people tended to think of Wild West images like cowboys. “Also, there was even confusion here in the U.S. with Western,” says Matoian, noting that no pistachios are grown in the eastern U.S. “But people would ask — seriously — about the Eastern Pistachio Association.”

So they tested out various names, and one consistent — and welcome — result was that the term “American” tested well. It also quickly and easily identifies the origin of the product in overseas markets. But best of all, it’s a marketer’s dream. “It was shown to provide consumers with a sense of quality and safety,” he says.

A Volunteer Effort

So this year the Western Pistachio Association will gradually transition into becoming American Pistachio Growers. A voluntary organization that is funded with an assessment of 4¢ a pound, it represents about 35% of the industry volume and about half the 800 growers in the three states. Matoian says he’s really proud of what the WPA has achieved in the four years since it got up and running following the dissolution of the California Pistachio Commission (CPC). At the time, it was pretty much strictly a political organization with a lobbyist back in Washington, D.C.

But with no CPC, a lot of leading growers got together and realized they needed to do something about all that nonbearing acreage, says Matoian. In 2007, they expanded WPA activities and in 2009, they ramped up domestic PR efforts, launching the successful “Green Nut” campaign. Then just last year, realizing that a key to success was going to lie overseas, they took over the California Pistachio Export Council’s international marketing and now direct the crop’s federal Market Access Program.

So despite the many acres of pistachios about to come on-line, Matoian says, American Pistachio Growers is ready, willing and able. “Our industry trade association is voluntary — we have a strong core group of growers and processors who believe in the generic message of American-grown pistachios. I feel very fortunate to be working in a commodity where the growers are willing to put their money where their mouths are,” he says. “They’re not waiting until the big production is here — they’re doing it now. And that’s exciting.”

Topics: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Nuts Stories

CitrusEPA Launches Program To Reduce Pesticide Drift
October 22, 2014
The voluntary star-rating program aims to protect people, wildlife and the environment. Read More
CitrusAgriculture, Interior Departments Partner To Measure Conservation Impacts On Water Quality
October 22, 2014
Goal is to provide science-based information for watershed wellness. Read More
CitrusIt’s Time For Young Farming Leaders To Engage [Opinion]
October 21, 2014
Florida Grower editor Frank Giles says there are capable and talented youths in the ag field ready to step up and take the reins. Read More
CitrusBayer CropScience Launches New Award To Recognize Produce Industry Innovators
October 21, 2014
Award recognizes innovation that enhances the role of produce in creating better lives. Read More
CitrusReport: Major Food And Agriculture Employers Can’t Fill Vital Jobs
October 21, 2014
Current shortage of young farming professionals means ample employment opportunity for the next generation. Read More
NutsAlmond Growers To Promote Bee Health
October 16, 2014
Almond Board of California announces comprehensive Best Management Practices. Read More
NutsKeep In Mind Availability Of Soil Fumigants
October 15, 2014
Almond growers must be aware of restrictions pertaining to soil fumigants prior to replanting. Read More

The Latest

FruitsCalifornia Growers Sue State Over Drought
October 30, 2014
They claim the State Water Resources Control Board illegally denied water deliveries. Read More
FruitsHuge California Drought Meeting Planned
October 29, 2014
State, federal officials to meet as forecasts for the coming year look bleak. Read More
CitrusNOAA’s Winter Weather Outlook Runs Hot And Cold
October 27, 2014
Repeat of last year’s extreme cold and snow events east of the Rockies unlikely. Read More
CitrusEPA Launches Program To Reduce Pesticide Drift
October 22, 2014
The voluntary star-rating program aims to protect people, wildlife and the environment. Read More
CitrusAgriculture, Interior Departments Partner To Measure Co…
October 22, 2014
Goal is to provide science-based information for watershed wellness. Read More
CitrusIt’s Time For Young Farming Leaders To Engage [Op…
October 21, 2014
Florida Grower editor Frank Giles says there are capable and talented youths in the ag field ready to step up and take the reins. Read More
CitrusBayer CropScience Launches New Award To Recognize Produ…
October 21, 2014
Award recognizes innovation that enhances the role of produce in creating better lives. Read More
CitrusReport: Major Food And Agriculture Employers Can’t Fi…
October 21, 2014
Current shortage of young farming professionals means ample employment opportunity for the next generation. Read More
NutsAlmond Growers To Promote Bee Health
October 16, 2014
Almond Board of California announces comprehensive Best Management Practices. Read More
NutsKeep In Mind Availability Of Soil Fumigants
October 15, 2014
Almond growers must be aware of restrictions pertaining to soil fumigants prior to replanting. Read More
CitrusScientists Uproot Common “Superweed” Myths
October 15, 2014
A new fact sheet is available that explores the truth behind two fallacies.   Read More
CitrusFarm Bureau Urges Senate To Ditch Proposed Water Rule
October 8, 2014
Farm Bureau says the time is now to have the proposed water rule withdrawn. Read More
NutsGeorgia Universities Evaluating New Crop Monitoring Tec…
October 7, 2014
They receive USDA grant to work with company to measure effectiveness of Internet-based devices in growing pecans. Read More
Food SafetyCenter For Produce Safety To Fund 14 Projects
October 7, 2014
The objective of the new grant awards is to provide the industry with practical research that can be used at all levels of the supply chain. Read More
FruitsUSDA Expands Access To Credit To Help More Beginning A…
October 7, 2014
Changes increase eligibility and financing options. Read More
Citrus2014 Irrigation Show To Highlight Education
October 6, 2014
The conference, to be held in Phoenix, AZ, brings together all aspects of irrigation and water management: education, certification, networking, and innovative technologies. Read More
Farm ManagementSpecialty Crop Producers Score Nearly $118 Million In G…
October 2, 2014
Via 2014 Farm Bill, USDA seeks to bolster major driver in U.S. economy.   Read More
NutsNew Walnut Budding, Grafting, and Planting Video Releas…
October 1, 2014
Lake County nurseryman Alex Suchan, who has been grafting trees for two-thirds of a century, is the star. Read More