China is mad for California pistachios

The Chinese call pistachios the "happy nut." But these days, it's California nut growers who are smiling.

China has become the industry's fastest-growing export market, boosting its purchase of U.S. pistachios to $109 million a year from $5 million in 2004.

And with more than 1.3 billion people, China could easily become the industry's biggest customer.

"They have the potential to buy a lot of pistachios," said Jim Zion, managing partner of Meridian Nut Growers in Clovis.

Underscoring that potential, a dozen Chinese importers and news media representatives this week are visiting the central San Joaquin Valley -- the heart of the nation's pistachio industry.

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