Valley growers enjoy pistachio boom

FRESNO, Calif.

Pistachios have shaken up the snackfood industry with tremendous growth. A year ago growers enjoyed a record year with 555 million pounds of nuts.

Richard Matoian of American Pistachio Growers said an off-year would normally follow. "As an alternate bearing crop we have big crops and we have small crops so this is our small crop year. Despite that we're probably going to be at or near record production."

The reason - thousands of pistachio trees planted between 2004 and 2007 are now coming into production to meet growing demand.

Consumers have gone nuts over pistachios in the US and abroad. American Pistachio Growers markets bags printed in Chinese and German.

Matoian said, "In the last six years China has become our number one market followed by the European Union."

Matoian said at some farms pistachios have replaced tomatoes and cotton on the Valley's west-side. It's an area where growers pump groundwater because of reduced irrigation deliveries.

Matoian explained, "Pistachios can grow fairly well in marginal soil and do well with marginal water quality."

The outlook is nuts. 35% of the Valley's pistachio trees have yet to produce a crop. Matoian expects production to double to a billion pounds by the year 2020.

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