Nut growers expecting record crops

09/21/2012 12:06:00 PM
Cynthia David

Peanut and tree nut growers, from almonds to walnuts expect record crops this fall after an ideal summer.

Peanuts

On Sept. 12, with just 3% of the crop harvested, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service estimated the peanut crop to be 63% larger than last year, for a total of about 5.9 billion pounds, or close to 3 million tons.

Production in Georgia, which grows nearly half of the nation’s peanuts, most of which are used for peanut butter, is set to jump by 595,350 tons above 2011, when bad weather hampered the crop.

“USDA tells us that 76% of the crop is of good or excellent quality,” said Ryan Lepicier, vice president of marketing and communications for the Atlanta-based National Peanut Board.

Almonds

In 2000, a 700,000-ton crop of almonds was considered large, said Greg Glasser, third-generation owner of Los Angeles-based Torn & Glasser, which processes nuts, dates and dried fruit.

“The estimate for this year’s crop is 2.1 billion pounds, and it’s not enough,” Glasser said.

Increasing demand will continue to push almond prices higher, he said.

Last year’s almond crop weighed in at 1.95 billion pounds, according to the Modesto-based Almond Board of California, with acreage up 1% from 2010.

Walnuts

Despite the prospect of the second-largest California walnut crop, grower and processor Jack Mariani said growers are disappointed.

“We had a really good summer overall, and looking at the trees we were confident it would be better,” said Mariani, co-founder of the Mariani Nut Co., Winters, Calif.

“It turns out the nut set on the trees wasn’t as heavy as we thought.”

Mariani predicted the harvest would start around Sept. 17.

With demand outstripping supply, walnut prices have risen to record-high levels in the past 12 months. While growers are happy, Mariani said most realize that prices over $4 a pound can turn off consumption and discourage large food manufacturers from using walnuts.

Pecans

After a hot, dry summer that ended with a good soaking from Hurricane Isaac’s tail, pecan growers are ready to “bust loose and get started,” said Duke Lane, chairman of Fort Valley-based Georgia Pecan Growers.

J.W. Christiansen, grower and consultant to the Nut Tree Pecan Co., Albany, Ga., estimates Georgia will produce 115 million to 120 million pounds of pecans this year.

USDA calculated the total 2010-11 pecan production at 293.7 million in-shell pounds, much larger than a typical off-year. Georgia’s share was 102 million pounds, up 36% from 2010.


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