Three-week delays not uncommon for nut crops this year

10/11/2011 01:00:00 PM
Dan Gailbraith

Matoian said past year prices have not varied more than 4%, partly because of high demand from China.

“Pistachios buck the trend of lower prices with larger supplies,” he said.

Compared to California, pistachio acres in the next two top-producing states of Arizona and New Mexico are minimal at 1,500 and 767 respectively, according to the 2007 Census of Agriculture. But growers in those states enjoy the same price stability and demand, making their efforts profitable.

Hazelnut growers in Oregon were still playing the waiting game in late September.

Polly Owen, manager of the Oregon Hazelnut Marketing Board said harvest could be delayed until the second week of October because of weather conditions this year.

With Oregon producing 99% of the U.S. crop, that means retailers across the country will have to wait for fresh filberts, also known as hazelnuts, this fall.

“The crop is really slow this year,” said grower John Sullivan, Vida, Ore. “I usually pick two or three times a season, with the first harvest starting around Oct. 1. This year we won’t start until Oct. 15 at the earliest.”

Once harvest does begin, good yields are predicted.

Owen said 41,000 tons are expected in this on-year, compared to the normal expectation of 35,000 tons. Even in the off-year of 2010 the crop beat predictions. Last year the USDA projected a 27,000-ton crop, but growers brought in 33,000 tons.

Those numbers add up to good revenue for the 600 growers and 20 processors under the Oregon Hazelnut Marketing Board’s umbrella, who like others in the U.S. tree nut industry are enjoying high demand from the international market. About 65% of U.S. hazelnuts are going to China.

Both Sullivan and Owen said a recall of in-shell hazelnuts in March because of possible E. coli contamination hadn’t seemed to hurt the industry. They said the timing of the recall, which came after the primary consumer buying period, and the rarity of such recalls for in-shell nuts worked to the industry’s advantage.

It’s an off-year for walnuts, but apparently no one told the trees in California. The National Agricultural Statistics Service  California field office official crop estimate, released Sept. 2, predicts a yield of 485,000 tons, slightly less than the record on-year 2010 crop of 503,000 tons.


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