Horizon Nut growers finished shaking the last of their 2012 crop of pistachios trees by early November. Based in Tulare, Calif., the grower cooperative markets them under the Horizon Growers through Meridian Nut Growers.
Most growers shook trees twice to bring in the later-maturity nuts. Some even shook a third time to make the most of the high prices for this year’s crop, reports Jim Zion, managing partner of Meridian and chairman of the American Pistachio Growers.
Production this year fell short of what many in the industry had been expecting.
“It looks like the U.S. crop will come in at around 555 million pounds from all producing areas in California, Arizona and New Mexico. That would be a record. But, some observers had predicted an even bigger record of 600 million pounds or more,” says Zion.
This compares to the last year’s 448-million-pound off-year and the previous record 528 million pounds produced in 2010.
“Pistachios are fascinating trees. We’re still not quite sure of what they are capable of producing. It’s hard to tell by looking at the nuts on a tree, which are good ones and which are blanks. The newer plantings have surprised growers with how vigorously they produce at an early age.”
Horizon grower yields ranged from 2,000 and 6,000 pounds per acre, depending on tree age, rootstock and variety.
Although there was more navel orangeworm damage towards the end of harvest, quality of the 2012 crop, overall, is excellent, Zion says. The nuts sized well. Roughly 20 percent were the extra large 18/20s. The majority were in the 21/25 range.
“This will be a good quality crop,” he adds. “I just wish we had more. Selling a 600-million to 650-million pound crop wouldn’t have been a problem. Our customers are coming back every day looking for additional quantity.”
The smaller-than-expected 2012 crop and resulting higher prices has Horizon’s customers booking orders over time, rather than lining up all their needs at once, Zion reports.
Zion’s company is also taking a more conservative approach in selling this year’s crop. “Without enough product, we have to allocate production to make sure our long-term customers are taken care of,” Zion says. “We’re already planning ahead for next year’s crop.”
The pistachio industry needs to carry over about 100 million to 120 million pounds of nuts from one year on-year to the next off year to satisfy customers.
“We came into the 2012 crop with carryover from 2011 right at 90 million pounds and conventional wisdom is that the 2013 crop may not be any bigger than this year,” he says. “If this holds true, there may not be enough pistachios to go around.
“The industry has done a good job of building demand for pistachios, not only as a snack but as an ingredient in more and more products. Now we’re waiting for supply to come in. We’ve never had adequate production to find out what the full extent of demand is for our product. As an industry, we’re not afraid of a billion-pound crop. We’re looking forward to it.”