California’s burgeoning pistachio industry is on a trajectory to produce more than 1.4 billion pounds by 2026 according to a new economic study commissioned by American Pistachio Growers (APG).
Bountiful harvests predicted in the years ahead will present both new opportunities and challenges that APG and its member processors fully embrace amid positive consumption trends in the United States as well as in global markets.
The study, conducted by agricultural economist Edmond Missiaen, projects annual California pistachio production from 2019-2026 based on new tree plantings in the past five years, a conservative projection of new plantings in the next three years, normal weather conditions and no major interruptions to water supplies.
Missiaen projects annual production could exceed 1.4 billion pounds by 2026 from a projected 392,595 bearing acres in California. The study did not include production in Arizona and New Mexico which account for 1% of today’s total production.
15,000 new acres a year
His prediction for new pistachio plantings in 2019 to 2021 are 15,000 acres annually, a figure based on average new plantings between 2005 and 2018 (15,886 acres). His data show growers planted an estimated 30,000 new acres in 2018. He also notes that his new planting forecasts do not account for uncertainties related to the availability, price or regulation of water in the years ahead, factors which would reduce the rate of new pistachio plantings.
In arriving at his prediction for 1.4 billion pound crop by 2026, Missiaen estimates the production, acreage and yield for all bearing trees in their 6thyear and older, when pistachio trees usually produce their first saleable crop. His yield estimates projected for 2019-2026 are for fully mature acres and account for the cyclical nature of pistachio production as trees tend to produce large crops in on-years followed by smaller crops in off-years in the next season.
His estimates are for 4,300 pounds per acre for on-years and 2,800 pounds per acre for off-years for fully mature trees. Missiaen’s forecast assumes this cyclical trend over the eight year period from 2019 to 2026, but he cautions against putting too much faith in that trend.
“There were 13 off-years but only 10 on-years in the 23 years from 1996 through 2018,” noted Missiaen. He stated that it is likely that two successive off-years will occur once or twice during the 8 years projected. Should that occur, it could bring cumulative production for the 8-year projection period 400 million to 800 million pounds below the cumulative estimates during the 2019-2026 production.
Bigger pistachio crops continue long trend in California
Only time will tell whether Missiaen’s production estimates are fully realized, but there is no discounting the fact that California’s pistachio industry continues to grow as does the popularity of pistachios as a healthy and nutritious snack. After gaining a foothold as a promising agricultural crop in California in the mid-1970s, the industry has steadily grown to become the number-one pistachio producer of the popular nut to global consumers.
Bigger crops have become the norm for the California pistachio industry as production has risen 89 percent in the past eight years, from 2010’s harvest of 521.8 million pounds to the 986.7 million pounds gleaned from state orchards in 2018. As recent as 2005, production in California was 282.4 million pounds and bearing acreage had just surpassed 104,000 acres.
Marketers ready to embrace bigger crops
American-grown pistachios have become frequent topics in health publications and medical research studies that have touted their attributes in helping to manage body weight, controlling blood sugar and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
“As the meteoric rise of U.S. pistachio production continues in California and other states it will require an intense and unrelenting focus on marketing future big crops, but we are confident that the myriad health benefits of pistachios and growing global demand for pistachios will keep our industry profitable,” said APG Vice President of Global Marketing Judy Hirigoyen.
“In our view, the producers of American-grown pistachios are very well positioned in the marketplace to take advantage of the larger harvests coming in the future,” said APG Executive Director Richard Matoian. “There’s much work to be done in the marketing and government relations areas to capitalize on these encouraging consumer trends, but there is no doubt that this is an exciting time in our industry.”