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Record year predicted for California almond crop

California almond growers anticipate a record-setting crop despite concerns earlier this year about frost during bloom. Harvest will start at the end of July in the Bakersfield vicinity.
Dan Wheat

Capital Press

Published on July 6, 2018 9:00AM

Last changed on July 6, 2018 9:59AM

A record California crop is forecast for this year. More than 1 million acres of trees are in production.

Almond Board of California

A record California crop is forecast for this year. More than 1 million acres of trees are in production.

MODESTO, Calif. — The California almond industry is expecting a record 2.45-billion-pound crop this year, up 7.9 percent from the 2017 crop of 2.27 billion pounds.

The official industry crop forecast was released July 5 by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Careful management by farmers and newer orchards coming into production are responsible for the increase despite earlier concerns about freezing weather during bloom, said Holly King, chairwoman of the Almond Board of California and a Kern County grower.

“2018 looks to be a milestone year with over 1 million almond-bearing acres now in California,” King said. It’s not just more acres but growers continuing to find ways to grow more almonds per acre, she said.

Harvest will start at the end of the month near Bakersfield, spread north into the Sacramento Valley in August and can finish in October, said Ashley Bloemhof, an Almond Board spokeswoman in Modesto.

As with tree fruit, almonds now face a 50 percent tariff in China in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum and other goods.

“It’s too early to speculate on how these costs might affect the industry as a whole,” Bloemhof said. “We don’t want to lose any export business to China.”

As of the end of May, 8.23 percent of California almonds, year-to-date, from the 2017 harvest had been shipped to China, she said, compared to 7.18 percent the previous season. Of just exports in the 2016-2017 season, 10.58 percent went to China.

The forecast, known as the objective report, is based on actual counts of nuts on trees. It follows this year’s May 10 preliminary, or subjective report, of 2.3 billion pounds based on early nut set.

The objective report says the average nut set per tree is 5,677, down 0.6 percent from the 2017 almond crop. The Nonpareil average nut set is 4,924, down 13.9 percent from last year’s set. The average kernel weight for all varieties sampled was 1.54 grams, down 1.9 percent compared to the 2017 average weight of 1.57 grams.

More than 6,000 almond growers and processors in California produce about 80 percent of the global supply. Demand continues to steadily grow as largely because of healthy benefits of almonds.

About 35 percent of California almonds go to North American markets, Western Europe is 26 percent and Asia and the Pacific, 25 percent.


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