Saudi Aramco World: November/December 2013 - page 9

November/December 2013
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if the original tree were still living, it would be in the old station
orchard in Chico.
Following its introduction in the 1950’s, the Kerman tree was
a novelty for growers in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. In 1976, the
crop yielded 680,000 kilograms (1.5 million lb). In 1979, grow-
ers got a surprise boost when
US
President Jimmy Carter imposed
sanctions on Iran—then the world’s largest pistachio grower and
exporter—in response to the taking of hostages in the
US
embassy.
Among their many provisions, the sanctions banned pistachios.
Today, starting from the first female Kerman tree in Chico,
there are more than 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) of pista-
chios growing in the Central Valley. At 270 to 360 trees per hectare,
this translates into an estimated 31 million trees, which produce
98 percent of the total
US
pistachio crop. (The other two percent
is grown in Arizona and New Mexico.) In 2010, with a harvest
of 240 million kilograms (528 million lb), California surpassed
Iran, which until then had remained the world’s top producer. This
year, the value of the harvest for the first time exceeded $1 billion,
surpassing the value of walnuts, and making pistachios the second
most valuable nut crop in the US, after almonds. That means the
average pistachio orchard is worth $75,000 per hectare ($30,000
per acre), and growers are so optimistic about the expanding mar-
ket that they are planting 4800 to 6000 additional hectares (12,000
to 15,000 acres) of pistachios every year.
Richard Matoian, executive director of American Pistachio
Growers, estimates that by 2017 the harvest will exceed 360
million kilograms (800 million lb), and there is, he is confi-
dent, plenty of global mar-
ket. According to the California
Pistachio Commission, 65 per-
cent of the crop is exported,
mainly to China and Europe.
China consumes the most pis-
tachios of any single coun-
try—some 77 million kilos (170
million lb) a year—and the
Andy Schweikart of Pioneer Nursery holds one of some 890,000 rootstock pistachio saplings, all pre-ordered for growers eager to expand
their orchards. Pistachios are now the second most valuable nut crop in the
US
, after almonds.
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