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Fresno County closes in on $8b crop value

Todd Fitchette wfp-todd-fitchette-ccaga-558.jpg
Almond values fell significantly in Fresno County and across the state as supply exceeded demand. Fresno County produces nearly one-fourth of the state's almond crop. Despite this, Fresno County amassed a record value for crop and livestock production in 2020, according to the county department of agriculture.
California's leading agricultural county by gross receipts maintained its crown for the third straight year.

Fresno County's agricultural value has never been higher, and yet it did so on a significant downturn of its leading crop.

While California's leading agricultural county by gross receipts maintained its crown for the third straight year, the county's agricultural output of just under $8 billion – $7,979,650,000 to be more exact – was tempered by dismal almond prices in 2020.

This is significant because no other county in the state produces more almonds. Fresno County last year produced about 682 million pounds of almonds, according to the annual crop and livestock report, or about 22% of the state's total almond production.

Those almonds sold for an average of $1.75 per pound to the grower in 2020, nearly 30% lower than they did the previous year. U.S. almond prices tanked in 2020 because of successive years where production exceeded USDA forecasts and a world oversupply was exacerbated by reduced demand during the global pandemic.

Fresno's almond acreage continued to climb into 2020, with 3.9 percent more acres harvested that year than the previous. Yields too were up nearly 6% on the year. Hull prices were down over 11% in 2020.

Related: Oranges are Tulare County's new billion-dollar crop

While the overall value of grapes was unchanged from 2019 to 2020, there were notable differences in acreage numbers and production.

Raisins account for most of the production in Fresno County. Acreage there fell by 11.7 percent. This pulled tonnage of the labor-intensive crop down as well.

Conversely, table grapes had a better year on improved prices and slightly higher harvested acres. Wine grape crush was off slightly on softer grower prices.

Pistachios rounded out the top three crops by value at nearly $709 million in gross receipts. Higher tonnage and yields on increased acreage were also seen as the average grower price fell 5 cents to $2.01 per pound.

Peaches moved into the Top 10, replacing mandarins, which have had a positive run for producers in the San Joaquin Valley. Mandarins appeared to suffer from too much of a good thing as per-acre yields, and total tonnage doubled. Prices were cut almost in half to an average of $748 per ton.

Big movers

Pears are not a big crop for Fresno County. Nevertheless, growers experienced a sizeable increase in price on a year that saw yields and total tonnage increase slightly. Grower prices in 2019 that averaged $1,253 per ton rose to $3,203 per ton, pulling the county's value of pears to over $40 million.

Persimmons too saw a marked increase in price – up from $862 per ton to $1,571 per ton. Total tonnage was up as well, pulling the value of that crop up $10 million to over $16 million.

Related: Gross farm receipts hit record in Kern County

Plums and Pluots each saw a significant price increase as well, while dried plums suffered a significant price decrease.

Walnut prices were off over 34%.

Timber yield was up 14% to over 45 million board feet.

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