The Australian Pistachio Industry
There is a single, national organisation – Pistachio Growers’ Association Inc (PGAI). There are no formal state or regional groups although the Western Australian growers tend to operate a discussion group for geographic reasons.
Growers of pistachios support the PGA Research Fund by way of a voluntary contribution.
The PGA is an active member of the Australian Nut Industry Council (ANIC).
The PGA has an e-newsletter that keeps growers informed of developments with the research projects and other industry news and professionally prepared Technical notes.
In 2014 the Pistachio Information and Technology Groups, PIT Groups were established through PGAI and HIAL via grower levies and meet 3 to 4 times a year to listen to and discuss relevant presentations on production, pests and diseases, harvest management and many other topics.
The PGA website provides growers with links to Californian and Australian research.
APPC issues a market report to all growers annually and monthly to members of the Pool.
For more information they can go to the Pistachio Industry Strategic Plan.
Australian Pistachio Growing and Production History
Commercial pistachio growing commenced in Australia in the early 1980’s following a successful breeding program by CSIRO, Merbein. The new variety Sirora was released in 1982. It is suited to the climate and soils of the River Murray valley, where today most large orchards are located.
Current Farming Situation
In 2015 there are about 40 pistachio growers. The total area planted in 2015 is about 750 hectares.
Generally, those orchards that have survived the pistachio learning curve and long juvenile phase are producing well. The climate and soils have proven satisfactory for pistachio production.
There are five large pistachio orchards and another five orchards of 10-15 hectares – the size required to make a living solely from pistachios. Around 20 mixed fruit growers each produce less than 5 tonnes of pistachios (dry) per annum from 1 to 5 hectares. There are very few small “hobby” farmers.
There are also a small number of growers in central NSW; southern Victoria Western Australia but only in very small quantities.
The industry has recovered from the fungal epidemic of 2011 and there are now significant new plantings and plans for further new orchards. It is estimated that 30ha was planted in 2015; 80ha will be planted in 2016 with 50 to 100 ha pa for the following years.
Current production averages about 1,200 tonnes per annum. This is expected to rise to an average of 1,600 to 1,700 tonnes per annum with peaks to 2,500 tonnes in on-crops and 800 tonnes in off-crop years once all planted trees are at maturity after 2020.
There is also a market for fresh pistachios fruit (in hull). Currently sales are estimated at 20- 30 tonnes from 10 to15 small growers selling independently of each other though the fresh fruit & vegetable markets.
Australian yields per hectare have improved 30% in the last 8 years. Australian orchards now achieve an average of about 3,000kg/ha, over the on/off cycle, peaking at over 5,300kg/ha in the on-crop.
Further improvement is possible – the best Californian orchards produce over 6,000kg/ha in the on-crop. Good Californian orchards average 3,500kg/ha.
Most pistachio production world-wide is directed at the consumer snack food market rather than the ingredient market. The snack food market for pistachios effectively also buys the shells at the same price! About 85% of the Australian crop is sold into the snack market.
There is a small ingredient market that is supplied by the kernels obtained by shelling the non-split and reject in-shells. The Australian Sirora variety has relatively few non-splits compared to most other commercial varieties (<10% compared with ~15-20% in Iran and California). Worldwide, the kernel market is expanding even faster than in-shell consumption.
Current (2014/15) Australian consumption is about 3,400 tonnes per annum. This represents a compound growth of about 9% per annum since 2000. There is scope for continued growth. The nut heart health message is steadily becoming better known.
Australian demand is still largely satisfied by imports. Present Australian supply satisfies about one third of total domestic demand.
If we assume domestic consumption growth will increase at about 2% per annum from 2015 forward, supply of Australian grown pistachios from all existing planted trees is clearly unlikely to satisfy domestic demand.