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USDA forecasts larger almond crop

Yield to go up 21% despite acreage decline, according to preliminary estimate.

Tim Hearden, Western Farm Press

May 13, 2024

3 Min Read
The USDA predicts this year's almond yield could reach 3 billion pounds.Almond Board of California

Despite the first anticipated drop in acreage in nearly 30 years, the USDA estimates that this year’s almond crop will come in at 3 billion pounds, a 21% increase over last year’s production of 2.47 billion pounds.

A mostly favorable bloom hastened the big crop, according to the subjective forecast by the National Agricultural Statistics Service office in Sacramento.

“The larger crop estimate is what the industry expected after a productive bloom this spring, but it’s also a testament to the hard work done by almond farmers throughout California during difficult times,” said Clarice Turner, the Almond Board of California’s president and chief executive officer.

“Demand for California almonds around the globe continues to grow and our almond farmers constantly deliver on producing high-quality California almonds to meet that demand,” Turner said.

The estimate is preliminary based on a survey of growers, Almond Board spokesman Rick Kushman cautioned in an email. The more statistically rigorous crop estimate, the Objective Report, will come out July 10, he noted.

The almond bloom began in the second week of February for early varieties. There were a few storms, but overall mild temperatures and excellent weather from the end of February into early March helped boost pollination, growers told NASS.

Related:Bearing almond acreage drops slightly

Bee hours were reported to be significantly higher than last year, NASS said. The bloom was done by mid-March.

The survey of 500 randomly chosen operations of varying size was held April 19 to May 5. This summer’s Almond Objective Report will be based on actual almond counts in about 1,000 orchards. If the 3-billion-pound estimate holds, it would be the second largest crop on record, according to the Almond Board.

Acreage down, exports up

The expected big crop comes after LandIQ estimated in April that bearing almond orchards at harvest will cover 1.373 million acres in California, a decrease of about 600 acres. The report was done for the Almond Board, which published the results.

Land IQ estimates that about 71,000 acres of orchards will be removed by the end of the crop year, adding to the 83,000 acres removed in 2023-24.

While the acreage drop is small, it marks the first time since at least 1996 that bearing acreage has not increased, according to NASS. The orchard removals continue a trend over recent years of decreasing almond acreage in the Golden State.

Although it is not unexpected – Rabobank in February predicted a 3-billion-pound crop -- a huge 2024 crop could complicate the almond industry’s efforts to rebound from 2022 price lows. Almonds dropped from a peak of about $4 a pound in 2014 to a little more than $1 per pound two years ago, according to USDA statistics.

Related:Are better days ahead for U.S. almond industry?

Ending stocks of unsold U.S. almonds at the end of this marketing year could fall below 500 million pounds for the first time in several seasons, Roland Fumasi, head of RaboResearch Food and Agribusiness for North America, said in February. This would be much improved from the 800-million-pound carry-outs that the industry experienced in the past several years.

Global ending stocks are also trending down, according to Rabobank’s five-year outlook. The global almond industry ended its respective 2022 marketing seasons with about 992 million pounds of unsold almonds, after experiencing a decade of stable ending stocks at less than half the 2022 peak.

Exports during the first half of this marketing year were up 12% over the same period last season. Rabobank hopes ensuring market stability will hold prices above $2 per pound with slim chances of pushing toward $3 per pound.

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