Pistachio Industry Poised For Promising Harvest

With the 2009 pistachio harvest little more than two months away, pistachio growers and processors are anticipating a promising crop year with production expected to exceed 2008 levels. Growing conditions have been excellent and are expected to yield a high-quality crop of nutrient-rich pistachios to meet increasing demand.

Harvest for this year’s pistachio crop will begin in September and is estimated at more than 425 million pounds with rising wholesale prices due to tight global supply. The Western Pistachio Association (WPA) reports domestic and international prices have risen due to continued strong consumer demand for pistachio’s nutritional benefits and appetite appeal.

“We are on track for a vintage pistachio season in terms of crop quality,” said pistachio grower and Chairman of the WPA, Mike Woolf of California Valley Land Company in Huron, CA. “Harvest lies before us, of course, but indications of a good year are strong – especially considering stable-to-slightly increased pistachio acreage, as well as cooperative weather throughout the growing season.”

While preparing for the upcoming harvest, the industry is also enhancing its food safety procedures to coincide with the arrival of the new crop this fall.

“Nearly a decade ago, in 2000, the U.S. pistachio industry was progressive in establishing proactive food safety practices; today our industry is determined to make those practices and procedures stronger than ever,” said Richard Matoian, WPA Executive Director. “As an industry, we are bolstering food safety guidelines to ensure pistachios are uncompromisingly safe, wholesome and delicious – just as the food industry and consumers should expect.”

Earlier this year, the pistachio industry was affected by its first-ever precautionary recall due to potential Salmonella contamination. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Web site reports no conclusive evidence that pistachio products were ever linked to any cases of human illness. Additionally, the single processor involved in the precautionary action has worked closely with local, state and federal regulators to implement aggressive safety measures and has recently returned to full pistachio processing and roasting operations.

“The pistachio industry is moving forward with optimism, cooperation and a commitment to world-class safety standards so that everyone who enjoys our pistachios can enjoy them with confidence,” said Matoian.

For more on pistachio growing, and the difficulties faced by growers reliant on state and federal water projects, look for this month’s issue of American/Western Fruit Grower magazine. The July edition features a cover story on pistachio grower Larry Easterling, who, along with two other nut growers, is suing the government over slashed water allotments.

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