Sometimes the first answer is the best answer because the 2020 California Almond Forecast didn’t change much from the initial Subjective Report in early May to the final Objective Report two months later.
Initial USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service predictions called for a third straight year of record crop, estimating that orchards would produce 3 billion pounds of nuts this year — up 17.6% from last year’s harvest.
“Coupled with a large increase in bearing acreage, the 2020 crop is estimated to be the largest on record,” according to report writers.
When the final forecast was released two months after the initial estimates, the numbers were pretty much confirmed based on 1.26 million bearing acres. Average per tree nut set was 5,645 or an increase of 21% over 2019 with kernel weight down just slightly at 1.51 grams.
There was little unexpected drama involved as Nonpareil variety production was up 24% over last year at 1.3 billion meat pounds. Nonpareil currently represents some 43% of California’s total almond production.
This year’s survey, taken between late May and late June, sampled over 1,800 trees in 909 orchards.
Tree nut producers were already celebrating what they were pretty sure would be good news. In their newsletter published prior to the final numbers, the Central California Almond Growers Association noted, “It appears to be another enormous hulling/shelling season…a record.”
Says CCAGA President/CEO Michael Kelley, “The fact that the Objective Estimate is in line with the Subjective Estimate demonstrates the overall confidence in the potential of the 2020 crop that from the start to present day has been a perfect growing season. The hullers and shellers throughout the state will be ready to take on this mammoth crop — but it will indeed be an extremely long processing season for most of them.”
The Almond Board of California was quick to add to the celebration. Citing “perfect weather during bloom and a healthy environment for pollinators”, Chair of ABC’s Board of Directors, Holly King, a grower herself in Kern County, added, “This year’s crop is proof that California is the perfect place to grow almonds.”
An upward trajectory
King, an almond advocate for over two decades, foresees a continuing upward trajectory for the industry.
“Production is projected to continue increasing over the next five years,” she says. “The industry’s marketing assessment will give us the resources we need to keep growing demand in order to meet the increase in production.”
Keeping demand ahead of supply, King explains, allows demand to drive prices, ensuring that growers and processors remain profitable.
“The public has the power to influence how — in fact, if — we grow almonds, so it matters how our industry interacts with the world outside our orchards,” she says. “We understand the issues and need to tell our story in a way that shows almonds to be an important part of the state’s economy.
“We’re doing the work to demonstrate careful use of resources, like maximizing water-use efficiency, utilizing co-products, and using diverse IPM practices. Continued education and participation in ABC’s California Almond Sustainability Program will help to reinforce the industry’s stewardship and address consumer questions about whether we should grow almonds in California.”
It won’t be long before this year’s product gets processed. The latest Blue Diamond Almond news reports, on behalf of over 3,000 growers across the state, hull split in process, especially on the west side of the Central Valley, with shaking underway and deliveries of in-hull product imminent.
A recent press release indicates the announcement of a record crop comes with the signing of a Phase I trade agreement with China to expand the number of specialty crops imported from the U.S. Good news because China is a top market for American almonds.
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