7   +   3   =

My father always said that you cant count on a harvest until it actually comes inbut Im ready toannouncethat this years crop of pistachios, which well shake loose in September, could be the best Ive seen in 20 years of farming them here in Californias San Joaquin Valley.

Weve enjoyed good weather, with theproperamount ofheat during the day andadequate chilling through the wintertime.Water is expensive, butwere gettingenough. And right now, our trees aresimplyloaded with nuts.

So were ready to sell to the world.

A bumper crop is expected from the pistachio harvest in California this year.

Our valleyalreadysupplies the U.S. market with virtually allofthe pistachios it needs, and weve gotlotsleft over.About half my harvest willgoabroad.

The only problem is that our biggestexportcustomer, Chine, just slapped a huge tariff on our product: Chinese consumers who want to buy California pistachios now will have to pay a 40-percent tax, as part of a retaliatory measure in anemergingtrade war between their country and the United States.

The dispute started earlier this year, when President Trump imposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum and then broadened the conflict by adding new dutieson$50 billion in Chinese products. China shot back with its own protectionist measures, and now my pistachio farm is caughtin the crossfire ofan unfortunate controversy.

Thepistachiotariffessentiallywill drive usout of the Chinese market. Theresjustno way aroundit. We cant cut our prices sharply enough to make up the difference.

Thats partly the point. The Chinese dont want to collect revenueon tariffsas much as they want to shut downa business weve worked hard to build for more than a decade. Their strategy is to create economic pain in California, which they believe willturn intopolitical pressure on the White House, forcing President Trumpto rethinkhishard line on trade.

Imalways againsta trade warbut Im also hopefulthat Chinas scheme wont work out the wayBeijingimagines. En réalité,our immediate futurelooks bright.

The United States exports more pistachios than anybody else, nearly 220,000 metric tons last year. Our closest competitor is Iran, at about 144,000 metric tons.Iran, pourtant,will struggle to satisfy Chinas huge demand, which peaks around the Chinese New Year, which in 2019 will take place on February 5.

Thats because this yearIranhas suffered a crop disaster: Itspistachio production will plummet by as much as 75 pour cent, due to weather extremes, water shortages, and soil salinization.

Ifthe Iranians shifttheirlimited output to China, well sell our California pistachios to the customerstheyabandon. Wellfind newbuyersin Europe, Inde, and elsewhere.

Demandfor our pistachiosis strong.We grow the best in the world.We sold out last years crop and were well on our way to selling out this years bounty, eventhoughthe new tariff meansthat in recent weeks,we havent solda single nut to China.

This is the messagewed like toeveryone to hear: California pistachio farmers are open for business. Well sell to anybody who wants to try the highest-quality nut on the market.

The bottom line is that in the short term,despite the trade war, well be okay.The circumstances of pistachio production in 2018 arestackedin our favor.

My worry is what will happenoverthe long term. Ifthe trade war grinds on and Chinas pistachio tariffremainsin place,the Chinese may yet hurt us in exactly the way they intend.

 

When the US and China ease up on trade disputes is yet to be determined.

Sooner rather than later, thistrade war will have tostop.EvenPresidentTrump knows this, as he indicated in April, when he tried to calm the nerves of anxious farmers during the trade wars opening salvos.

Well make it up to them, he said. The farmers will be better off than they ever were. It will take a little while to get there, but it could be very quick, actually.

Im willing to give the president a bit of time, but I doplan to holdhimto his promise.

 

 

 

Remarque – a version of this column first appeared at The Hill on July 24.