What is in this article?:
- Tom Coleman began growing pistachio trees in the late 1970s, when he owned an ornamental tree and shrub nursery and was asked by a pistachio grower to supply some seedlings.
- Coleman Farming Company owns 740 acres of pistachio and manages a little over 700 more acres of pistachios for several other growers.
- “The industry is doing very, very well,” he says. “Nothing I see at the moment concerns me about our industry and that’s what concerns me. Are things really as good as they look? I believe they actually are. The California pistachio industry has a pretty bright future.”
Coleman expects the current good times that he and other growers are enjoying to continue, at least for a while.
“The industry is doing very, very well,” he says. “Nothing I see at the moment concerns me about our industry and that’s what concerns me. Are things really as good as they look? I believe they actually are. The California pistachio industry has a pretty bright future.”
Pistachio sales rebounded quickly from the salmonella scare in 2009 that depressed the market severely for about two months. The industry met that challenge head-on, he notes. Paramount Farms launched a major advertising campaign, Get Crackin’, while the rest of the processors, through the Western Pistachio Association, launched their Green Nut marketing and promotion program. Both efforts succeeded in restoring consumer confidence in pistachios as a safe, wholesome food, Coleman says.
“The Administrative Committee for Pistachios continues to work on protecting food safety and food quality,” he says. “I’ve been very impressed by how the industry has moved from basically a farm product to a food grade product. Processors have spent huge amounts of money to improve sanitary procedures to amazingly high levels.”
Despite the attractive prices growers have been receiving in recent years, Coleman doubts they have overplanted as they’ve added new acreage to their orchards.
The strong demand for pistachios, which are grown in only a few areas of the world, continues to strengthen and California producers are in a unique position to capitalize on it, he contends. The importance of Iran as a major pistachio producer continues to decline, due to lack of adequate water quality to irrigate orchards. “Most observers seem to agree that Iran has seen its heyday,” Coleman says. “Syria and Turkey also grow pistachios but export little of their production. That leaves California, which is pretty much it as the major producer in the world.”
To help ensure that California’s pistachio growers can maintain their edge in producing a top quality crop, The California Pistachio Research Board is considering endowing a chair at the university level to conduct reach on pistachio production. “The researchers doing this work now are approaching retirement and the University of California system lacks the money to replace them,” Coleman says. “The board is looking at possibly funding some of this work. It’s exciting that the industry is in a financial position to consider this kind of investment in our future.”