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Orchards went nuts, smashing records in 2020

Todd Fitchette TNFP1217-fitchette-records.jpg
Almond harvest proceeds in the San Joaquin Valley. Production of almonds, walnuts and other tree nuts smashed expectations – and in some cases, records – in 2020.
Commodity groups have been vigorously promoting nuts to offset sagging prices.

For better or worse, production of almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans and hazelnuts smashed expectations and, in many cases, records in 2020.

With a growing glut of nuts and with the pandemic and trade disputes disrupting markets, tree nut groups have been vigorously promoting nuts to offset sagging prices. For example, Nonpareil almonds dipped into the $1.60 range before rebounding to just over $2.

But as long as prices hold up, players in the tree nut industry should be happy with this year’s production.

Here is a snapshot of how each crop fared in terms of yields.


By the time almonds from the late-maturing blocks were collected and shakers were making second passes to remove nuts that failed to fall initially, the final total is still expected to hover around the early predictions of 3 billion tons. 

Fall month shipments for new crop year 2020 exceeded expectations with both exports and domestic shipments up on a forecasted yield of 2,380 pounds per acre, a jump of 10% over 2019. Huller/sheller stockpiles are topped out with expectations that they will remain fully operational well into January 2021.

Market trend optimism abounds into the late harvest period for almonds. 

“Large is the theme in receipts, shipments, and commitments, all at historic highs,” reported Bill Morecraft, senior vice president of Blue Diamond Almonds. “We’ve had consecutive months of increased shipments at a record pace keeping handlers operating at near capacity.”

CEO Mark Jansen’s Almond Insights column cautions: “With another record crop, innovation will be the key to success in the coming year, innovation on almond products and almond ingredients in new categories.”


Both California and Arizona pistachio growers are working on record crop numbers, exceeding last year’s market value of $2 billion.

As November arrived, Jim Zion of Meridian Growers reported: “Total U.S. crop stands at 1.05 billion pounds (and) we do not expect this number to change much.” 

“Predictions are coming true with a harvest of larger size and higher quality from some 300,000 bearing acres,” according to Richard Matoian, executive director, American Pistachio Growers. APG Vice President Judy Hirigoyen added: “Growers have done their part. It’s our job to generate consumer demand around the world.”


The American Pecan Council preliminary numbers show pecans expected to finish the year by up to a 6.7% increase from last season as the industry ships almost 362 million pounds to buyers around the globe. 

APC said the pandemic affected worldwide shipments, but domestic growth was strong enough to pull the numbers out of the red. 

“Current market conditions have made our ability to move product in normal channels challenging,” noted Mark Hendrixson, president, California Pecan Growers Association.


Walnut growers also had a positive finale with a USDA NASS Objective Report anticipating 780,000 short tons, up 19% over the prior year.  New acreage, more-densely-planted orchards, and heavier-yielding varieties are cited as reasons for the increase.  “Reports are mixed so far, although we’re on pace to hit in the probable neighborhood of 750,000 tons,” reports Jon Field, general manager of the Walnut Bargaining Association.

Jennifer Williams, marketing director of the California Walnut Board, noted: ”Part of the rise in production is the result of a peak planting period back in 2015 when new acres were planted that are now coming into production. Marketing this pace of growth is a challenge that we view as an opportunity.”


Lest anyone forget hazelnut orchards in the Pacific Northwest, the Hazelnut Marketing Board of Oregon reports its thousand grower families in the Willamette Valley region point with pride at the Objective Final Yield survey data indicating a revised 71,000 tons, a massive 61% increase over 2019.

Filbert farmers who have been planting some 5,000 new acres of trees per year over nearly the last decade. Christian Richmond, a third-generation hazelnut grower who manages over 700 acres, foresees rosier days ahead.

“These increased numbers mean we can get on track with some of the larger companies and start seeing hazelnuts in cereals and candies,” he said.

For more news on tree nuts as reported by growers and farm advisors, subscribe to the Tree Nut Farm Press e-newsletter.

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