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Serving: West
TNFP1017-tim-hearden-roundup1_BT_Edits.JPG Tim Hearden
Walnuts are harvested near Red Bluff, Calif. Tree nut harvests are at least halfway complete in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys.

Roundup: Harvest snapshot, Blue Diamond expansion and early snow

Almond production may slightly exceed subjective forecast

On-and-off frontal passages in the North Pacific brought early snows to higher elevations in the Sierra Nevada range and cooler weather in much of California during the first week of October, a condition that was expected to change as a period of warming was anticipated for most of the state by the middle of the month.

September represented a strange weather month with rains in the north and above average temps for most of the state, proving once again the weather in recent years has been anything but normal.

Does that mean a possible repeat of last year’s fall and winter pattern, or something entirely different? We cover that in a special report of its own in the Oct. 17 issue of the Tree Nut Newsletter, also available on the Western Farm Press website.

First, we take a look at the most recent developments across the Valleys.

Harvest update

With California nut harvest at least halfway complete by the time this report is published, there is generally good news coming from producers about how the year seems to be turning out. When all is said and done and the last almond is harvested it looks as if annual almond production could be slightly more than the last subjective forecast of 2.5 billion pounds, although there have been some reports that favor the opposite view. Growers in western Stanislaus County report they are only a little more than halfway through almond harvest as of this writing, so nothing is written in stone yet.

Thanks to wet conditions during harvest in select locations across the Sacramento and northern San Joaquin Valley, moisture levels were high enough to require some drying.

Walnuts and pistachios

It is a little too early to gauge walnut numbers but reports so far indicate final harvest numbers will fall short of last year’s bumper year. Pistachio growers are reporting the season’s production will be coming in below last year’s numbers as well. The good news for pistachio growers is that nut size and quality have been described as better than average, and the same is true for walnuts from what we are hearing.

For walnut growers, the price jump to near $1.20 a pound will help to offset lower production. That’s almost twice the price for last year’s walnuts.

Industry insiders point to disruptive weather and a short pollination season last spring and a slow developing summer as the primary reasons some production was down for select nut varieties in some areas.

Post-harvest tasks getting underway

As of this writing post-harvest tasks were underway with emphasis being placed on orchard sanitation and the application of soil amendments. While most growers are diligent in their sanitation efforts, high labor costs may be the cause of a few producers not stepping up to Naval orangeworm (NOW) sanitation efforts. The lack of proper sanitation not only affects the primary orchard but puts adjacent orchards at risk as well. With the threat of intensifying NOW problems, this is not the time to relax on good sanitation practices.

Also, post-harvest is the perfect time to evaluate overwintering pest pressure warns Farm Advisor Emily Symmes in Sacramento County. The effort could help growers avoid serious pest and disease problems down the road.

On a brighter side to the year, despite trade issues with China and some EU buyers, demand for California tree nuts has remained basically strong and potentially could offset some setbacks caused by tariff exchanges between the U.S. and its major trading partners.

Speaking of trade issues

Pecan growers from Texas to California are voicing concern over the negative effects of the current trade war playing out between the White House and several U.S. trading partners.

Mexico-grown pecan sales have reached record numbers already this year as Chinese buyers have turned their attention to Mexican supplies to avoid stiff U.S. tariffs. According to a spokesman for the New Mexico Pecan Company, pecan prices have slumped from around $5.50 a pound for a truckload of nuts to a modest $3.75 a pound per truckload this year. The difference will represent a sizable hit to Western growers.

Domestic prices for pecans have also declined considerably because the domestic market is being flooded with nuts that normally would be sold to international markets. On the brighter side, both domestic and international demand for pecans has increased, thanks in part to the new grower marketing organization that is making an impact on the promotion of pecans.

Blue Diamond’s Log5 technology

With an additional 52,000 square feet of manufacturing facility in Salida, Blue Diamond Growers continue to expand its natural pasteurization capability in producing high-quality almond products to consumers worldwide.

The new facility combined with the recent groundbreaking of a new receiving warehouse at the same location will establish largest almond receiving station in the world and a turnkey almond operation to meet rising demands across domestic and international markets.

Mark Jansen, President and CEO for Blue Diamond Growers, told a crowd gathered at a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony that the new manufacturing facility was built with expansion in mind, an optimistic position on the projected growth of the industry in the years to come. 

Water in the reservoirs!

 No one is arguing the incredibly wet year so far has been good for California farmers. As November quickly approaches, a check across the Valleys indicate strong numbers for water stored.

The California Department of Water Resources is the reporting agency touting the good news just as the new water year gets underway. According to the latest report, most reservoirs are running nearly full. Heavy rains and a generous snowpack last winter has made storage levels remain high even throughout the warmer months of the growing season.

The 2019 snowpack comes in as the fifth largest in the state in more than 50 years.

Notable meetings and events

Oct 24 Kern County Ag Day
7:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Kern County Fairgrounds, Bakersfield

Oct 28-30 Annual FREP/WPHA Conference
DoubleTree by Hilton, Fresno

Oct 31 Soil Health & Cover Crop Field Day
Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center
287 S Briggs Rd, Santa Paula

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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