As California pistachio growers begin harvesting what could be a record crop, prices are likely to fall, says Steve Couture with California Pistachio Orchards at Kettleman City, Calif.

Couture, who is chairman of the California Pistachio Board, is looking for a European price of $2.75 per pound for 21/25 Extra No. 1 raw pistachios this fall — about 50 cents below the mid-August price.

“There’s been practically no trading, and there are very few pistachios on the market,” he says. “So, if you‘re a buyer, why buy now at $3.25 or $3.35, when the price is likely to be around $2.75 mid-September? However, I think that price will hold and move quite a bit of crop.”

About half of California Pistachio Orchards’ production is shipped to Europe, about 35 percent to 40 percent is sold in the U.S., and 10 percent to 15 percent may go to China.

The future remains bright for California pistachios, Couture says. “The market is still expanding — it’s nowhere close to being saturated.”

Efforts to promote pistachios’ health benefits should help spur growth of the snack market segment, he says. “As a snack food, pistachios probably have the highest value of any type nut.”

Pistachios as a food ingredient is another a promising market that has yet to be fully tapped. “We haven’t had the tonnage to excite the interest of food makers for using a lot of pistachios in their products,” he says. “That should change as our production goes up.

A very high percentage of pistachios now shipped to Europe are roasted and salted and served as snacks, Couture says. By comparison, almonds are sold almost exclusively as a food ingredient throughout Europe and are not positioned in supermarkets as a standalone food.

Rising standards of living and greater disposable income for consumers worldwide also bodes well for increasing the demand for pistachios, he says.

Meanwhile, the industry is dealing with food safety concerns in a positive manner.

“The industry is working incredibly hard to put in place all the best practices for eliminating food safety as an issue,” Couture says. “I’m very comfortable with any pistachio product that is being sold to consumers.”