All this is particularly good news, since sales this year to Europe — long the best customer for American-grown pistachios — are questionable, given the economic problems in that area of the world. “However, the increasing demand just in China, alone, could come close to offsetting any downturn in sales to Europe,” Matoian says.

The driest December on record in most of the San Joaquin Valley is causing concern among California farmers. Many new pistachio trees will start bearing a marketable crop this year. As a result, U.S. pistachio bearing acreage is expected to increase from the approximate 140,000-acre level of last year to well above 150,000 acres this year. Also, this is an on-year for pistachio trees.

So, if the weather cooperates, Matoian wouldn’t be surprised to see growers produce a 600-million pound crop in 2012.

“Our product is in demand around the world,” he says. “By following the example of the almond industry, I’m greatly optimistic that we can market a crop of that size.”