US Pistachio Exports Skyrocket Due to Lowest Prices in More Than a Decade

Pistachio Kernel
Raw Pistachio
United States
Market & Price Trends
Published Jan 25, 2024
Record pistachio production in the US led to tumbling prices and soaring exports. The 2023 US pistachio crop reached an estimated 1.49 billion lbs, exceeding initial expectations by as much as 15%. This was exacerbated by record global production, which topped 1 mmt in 2023. As a result, prices in the US fell to their lowest levels in more than a decade. Buyers were quick to seize the opportunity, resulting in a surge in exports from the US as importers capitalized on the significantly reduced prices. US exports in the first four months of the 2023/24 MY reached 428 million lbs, more than double the five-year average.

Production Far Exceeds Expectations

The 2023/24 pistachio crop in the United States (US), harvested from late Aug-23 to Dec-23, has far exceeded expectations, reaching an estimated 1.49 billion pounds (lbs). This is 15% more than initial expectations of 1.30 billion lbs. Conditions during the growing season were mostly favorable, but the mediocre 2022 crop was a major contributor to this year’s record crop. Pistachios follow a bi-annual production cycle with a year of high yields followed by a year with low yields. This is because pistachio trees are alternate bearing, and exert vast amounts of energy on nut production in an on-year, with fewer resources allocated to the following year’s crop. As yields were lower than expected in 2022, production soared in 2023, surpassing initial expectations.

The variation in the cycle has become more pronounced in the US. This is mostly due to climatic factors, leading to a poor crop in 2022, a large crop in 2023, and the high possibility of a poor crop in 2024. In 2023, the American Pistachio Growers commissioned the Tootelian Company to make long-term production projections based on pistachio areas planted and expected yields as these trees mature. While the production aggregate over the following years might closely align with these estimates, averaging around 1.3 million lbs annually, the variation between on- and off-years might be more pronounced than in these projections.

Figure 1. US Pistachio Production Projections

Source: Administrative Committee for Pistachios (ACP), American Pistachio Growers

Pistachio Prices Drop to Lowest Level in More Than a Decade

Despite already being relatively low since the 2020/21 marketing year (MY), pistachio prices plummeted to their lowest level in more than a decade due to the record crop. In Dec-23, prices fell to around USD 3.00/lbs on a free-on-board (FOB) basis, which is considerably lower than the five-year average of USD 3.56/lbs.

The descent in prices was further intensified by a colossal global crop in 2023. The year saw global production surpassing 1 million metric tons (mmt), establishing a new record and outstripping the five-year average of 800,000 metric tons (mt).

These rock-bottom prices triggered a surge in pistachio exports, with buyers seizing the opportunity to stock up on pistachios during this period of exceptional affordability. Early in the 2023/24 period, exports from the US experienced a notable increase to all regions.

Exports Soar as Importers Stock Up

In the first four months of the 2023/24 MY, the US exported 428 million lbs of pistachios. This is more than double the five-year average of 203 million lbs over the same period. This came due to skyrocketing demand from all regions and an exceptional surge from China. The US exported 203 million lbs (92,222 mt) to China over the first four months of the 2023/24 season. Considering that China imports only 88,000 mt on average annually, these high imports are significant. European imports also soared, with the US exporting 95 million lbs to Europe in the first four months of 2023/24, which is double the five-year average.

Figure 2. US Pistachio Exports from September to December

Source: ACP

Triggered by the low prices, the surge in pistachio exports is anticipated to decelerate. Although prices in the US continue to face downward pressure due to abundant global supply, they currently stand at unsustainable levels. Consequently, short-term expectations suggest that prices will stabilize or experience a slight increase. With the harvest concluded, harvest pressure on prices is also being alleviated. Even with prices at these significantly low levels, exports could slow down. Many importers have already secured their medium and long-term procurement needs during the period of low prices, resulting in fully stocked inventories.

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