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Final 2017 California pistachio numbers imminent
Growers and customers alike are waiting for the final pistachio numbers to be released in order for the market to respond to this season's harvest. The harvest is in its final stages and numbers are expected very shortly. Expectations are for lower numbers than last year. This is due in part to last year's bumper yield and the fact that pistachios are an alternate bearing crop. However, growers are still looking at a good crop, considering it is the lighter year.
"The 2017 pistachio harvest is wrapping up as we speak," said Debbie Loyd, of Nature's Joy in California. "This year, the harvest lasted for 6 weeks and we are now waiting for the final numbers to come in to determine the yield. Pistachios are an alternate bearing crop. Last year was the big year, so expectations are that numbers will be down compared to last year, but still good."
Teresa Keenan, of Keenan Farms, another pistachio grower and processor in California, echoed those observations. "Last year 2016 the California pistachio industry harvested a record 903 million lbs.," Keenan said. "And although official harvest numbers are not available yet, this 2017 year we expect to harvest roughly 570-580 million lbs. This year is our light crop year but still is a very good year. In fact, it is our second largest crop year ever."
Harvesting time at Keenan Farms
Waiting game for heat impacts
The heat wave experienced in the early part of the season appears to have had little effect on production. "Generally, California's Mediterranean climate is ideal for pistachios, evidenced by the fact that almost the entirety of the domestic supply is grown there," continued Loyd. "We did, however suffer from an intense heat wave back in May and June. At that stage of the season, there is a chance that trees goes into self-preservation mode. But any effects appear to be minimal. Overall, the bloom was really good and we will be surprised if the season didn't turn out well."
The market is hungry for pistachios as growers reflect that they never seem to be able to meet demand, regardless of yield numbers. With suppliers and customers waiting for the harvest numbers, the market is sitting tight. "Once we find out those final numbers, the market can be set and growers and customers can determine inventory requirements," added Loyd. "There is more acreage added every year but pistachios are a long term investment. There is a lead time of 7 years before a tree will start producing but once established, they can bear nuts for around 75 years."
According to Keenan, the estimates are predicting a moderate rise in prices. "This year, shell color and nut sizes are very favorable," Keenan noted. "Pricing looks like it will be about 10 – 15% higher than last year while demand continues to be solid. Due to the excellent demand, domestic sales have been strong as consumers love pistachios."
Image: Keenan Farms
Flavored products prove a hit
As producers look to new products and twists on pistachio products, Loyd noted that flavored varieties are proving to be popular since they were introduced. "Snack sizes sell well in the retail market," she said. "There has been a steady increase in demand for flavored pistachios since their inception. In terms of new products, Nature's Joy are excited to be launching a new product at this year's PMA Fresh Summit."
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