Despite the high cost of water for the many pistachio growers on the San Joaquin Valley’s West Side, Chuck Nichols is optimistic about the overall prospects for producers this year.

His family-run Nichols Farms, Hanford, Calif., grows, processes, packages and markets pistachios throughout the U.S. and around the world.

“On the revenue side, it should be a very good year because the crop is good and prices, while not high, are still at a very good level,” he says.

Based on what he’s seen of his pistachios and those of his customers during the first part of this on-year harvest, Nichols rates the quality of the crop as good. He figures California’s growers will gather 415 to 430 million pounds by the time the harvest ends in the first or second week of October. Some other packers, he notes, are projecting production at less than 400 million pounds this year.

“The market is expecting the crop to be in the 400 to 450-million pound range,” Nichols says. “If it falls below that level, it should give the market some strength.”

In fact, he notes, the market firmed up during the last week of August and the first two weeks of September compared to what it was earlier in the summer. “As of mid-September prices are down about 10 percent from a year ago,” he says. “But these current prices are for a much larger supply, and that speaks well for grower returns.”

He reports pool prices for new crop in-shell pistachios of around $1.80 a pound, and for nut meats in the $2.30 to $2.35 range. These prices are about 10 to 15 cents lower than the final prices for last year’s crop.