Growth in production and a positive outcome in front of the Federal Trade Commission at recent anti-dumping hearings could bode well for the near-term for American pistachio farmers.
The five-year extension of the U.S. anti-dumping tariff on imports of raw, in-shell pistachios from Iran is big news for the industry, especially as Iran apparently does't have the ability to store pistachios for more than a year and must sell what's grow that given year, according to American Pistachio Growers (APG) Executive Director Richard Matoian.
As acreage grows across the West – nearing 250,000 bearing acres in California alone – nut production in 2016 grew to over 900 million pounds, a far cry from the crop failure the previous year and almost double what the industry tracked from 2010 through 2014.
Pistachios are also produced in Arizona and New Mexico. APG, a voluntary trade association which targets generic pistachio marketing, says acreage data are not available from the two states though production figures are.
Two significant reports out of this year’s annual APG grower luncheon in California included news that China is once again buying more American pistachios following reduced purchases over the last two years. So far this marketing year, China has gobbled up about half of total U.S. exports. Year-to-date exports are in record territory at over 350 million pounds, says Matoian.
Also notable is the volume of exports to China and Hong Kong. Year-to-date exports to the region are currently about 50 percent, or about 60 million pounds higher than record purchases in 2012-2013.
By comparison, year-to-date exports to all countries – the marketing year which runs Sept. 1 through Aug. 31– now exceed combined exports from the previous two marketing years by at least 25 million pounds.
Exports to Western Europe are back above 100 million pounds year-to-date after falling to the lowest level last year since at least 2007-2008.
As production grows, so does APG income. After last year’s record crop, the trade association received $15.1 million in assessments from growers and processors. This is also due to a rise in membership numbers which have climbed 97 percent since the organization formed a decade ago.
Earlier this year, APG board members voted to eliminate the assessment on processors put in place in 2009 to help bolster marketing efforts, Matoian said. With production levels closing in on one billion pounds, Matoian says the organization can sustain itself on grower assessments.
During the luncheon, the APG leader announced the group will hire a director of government relations to help manage various regulatory and government challenges.