“We’re quite enthusiastic about this year’s pistachio crop,” says Rod Stiefvater, Bakersfield, Calif. His company, RTS Agribusiness, grows pistachios in Fresno, Kern, Madera and Tulare counties.
“More than likely, it will be a record year for production,” he adds “From all the reports I’ve seen, nut fill this year is very good and nut size looks to be a little above average. And even with the worldwide economic slowdown, prices will be very strong.”
In fact, in early August, Paramount Farms announced it will pay growers a minimum of $2.10 per pound with bonus for inshell pistachios and at least $2.75-per-pound for kernels.“Those are quite profitable prices, particularly in a big crop year,” Stiefvater says.
A director of the Pistachio Research Board, he attributes the attractive pistachio prices to significant growth in global demand in recent years, which is expected to continue and very low inventories available to meet that demand.
The expected bumper crop reflects the expanded pistachio acreage now coming into production and the fact that this is an on-year in many orchards for the alternate-bearing trees. Favorable weather this summer hasn’t hurt, either. However, temperatures well above 100 degrees in the southern San Joaquin Valley for an extended period in early August could result in more blanks and closed nuts, Stiefvater notes.
(For more, see: Pistachio industry on road to billion-pound crop)
His trees range in age from young, non-bearing ones to some 45-year-olds that remain as productive, he notes. He’s expecting very good production this year. “For our 12-year and older trees, yields of up to about 6,000 pounds per acre on an inshell dry weight basis are possible in some fields,” he says.
Stiefvater plans to begin harvest earlier than most growers during the first 10 days of September. He expects to finish by the end of the month.
The early start minimizes the potential for navel orangeworm damage to the nuts. Also, it helps him avoid bottlenecks at processing facilities later in the season.
Except for just a few orchards with a history of a wide range in nut maturity, he’ll get his crop the first time through the field.
“Generally speaking, we try to shake early, shake hard and shake just once,” Stiefvater says.