With a less than anticipated carry-over crop into the 2019-2020 season, the California pistachio market is looking at an off-year for its incoming crop.
“We’re going to have a carry over of 132 million lbs. from last season. Most of it will be lower grade material and there’ll be some in-shell so we’ll have a fairly low carry over into this season,” says Jim Zion of Meridian Growers LLC in Madera, Ca. “We thought that number would be closer to 150 million lbs. but we had some significant shipments in the last couple of months so it’s a bit less than anticipated.”
On top of that, pistachios are an alternate bearing crop and the 2019-2020 crop is an off-crop year. “It will be a lower crop than last year. We’re about 1/3 of the way through harvest so too early to tell but I think estimates are that there will be 750 million lbs. of crop out of the United States. That’s definitely down from last year,” says Zion.
He notes that harvest started slightly later this year by about a week. “It’s been a bit slow to mature,” says Zion. “We’ve had some pretty cool temperatures so everything kind of slows down. We’ll go through to about mid-October with harvest.”
At the same time, demand is anticipated to be similar to last year. “American growers ended up shipping a little over 800 million lbs. domestically and internationally last year and with the lower supply this year, we may have to pull back a little on shipments to not run out of pistachios,” says Zion. He notes that Iran’s crop looks to be strong though and that may help balance global supply.
While pistachios are exported to markets such as China, Hong Kong, Mexico, Canada and into Europe, the industry is also eyeing a new potentially lucrative market. “American pistachio growers are doing a big push in India,” he says. “We’re starting to see a lot of demand come out of India for American pistachios which is a good new market for us with the potential to be as big, if not bigger, than China.”
New products coming
At the same time, pistachio-related products are also developing. He notes that while there’s increasing interest for kernels to use in candy, baking and confectionery items both domestically and internationally, other products are developing including pistachio butter, pistachio bourbon and flavoured pistachios (i.e. salt and pepper, garlic, etc.) “As we’ve built up that supply, we’re able to build new demands and products because we’re able to have a fairly large and adequate supply for food manufacturers to work with,” says Zion.
Meanwhile pricing for now is stable on pistachios. “Pricing is a little bit more than last year at this time—up about five percent,” says Zion. “While almonds go up and down, pistachios move in a pretty narrow range which allows us to do more marketing. It usually trades within 10-15 cents of established prices.”