California almond growers believe they will crack another milestone this year when they harvest a record three billion pounds of nuts. If it holds, this will be over 17 percent more than the 2.55 billion pounds of almonds harvested last year.
While the subjective almond forecast is a first peek into what the industry expects, it is typically not exact. Still, mild temperatures during bloom, young trees that are hitting their production stride and higher-than-ever acreage should combine for a big number later this year.
"This isn't unexpected," said Fresno Farm Bureau Chief Executive Officer Ryan Jacobsen, himself an almond grower. "The question was just what side of 3.0 billion pounds was that forecast going to hit."
Michael Kelley, president of Central California Almond Growers Association, a large huller/sheller operation with plants in in Kerman and Sanger, said the news validates action his board took to boost hulling and shelling capacity by replacing 37-year-old equipment in the Kerman One Plant.
"That's right at 159 million pounds for us, which we're going to be able to do this year because of the expansion we'll complete two months ahead of schedule," Kelley said.
The industry reported almond acreage in the state at 1.18 million bearing acres, up 8 percent from the previous year, according to the Almond Board of California. This growth in the industry, coupled with what industry insiders say was a near-perfect almond bloom period with warm temperatures and no rain, allowed bees to pollinate trees better than the past several years, where freezing temperatures and rain hampered pollination.
"I was personally hammered two years ago by the freeze and then the rain," said Jacobsen.
Butte County almond grower Stacy Gore said weather in his end of the state seemed to mirror the San Joaquin Valley with warm weather and long bee flight hours.
"Our bloom came fairly close together with the varieties, but it sustained for quite a long period of time," Gore said.
Like reports from other growers, Gore has had to tie up and prop heavy tree branches, and trim back product to limit the weight on some of the branches to protect the trees.
"We'll see what we get," he said. "That'll be a fun one to market."