Three-week delays not uncommon for nut crops this year

10/11/2011 01:00:00 PM
Dan Gailbraith

Unlike some commodities earlier this year, unusual weather hasn’t decimated most nut crops in the U.S., but it has delayed development and harvest in many growing regions by as much as three to four weeks.

Record crops are anticipated for almond and walnut growers in California. Oregon hazelnut growers also report a strong showing, with a 41,000-ton crop predicted. Normal yields are usually in the 35,000-ton range.

Texas nut growers have not been as lucky. A year-long drought continues to plague the state, which is normally the second-largest producer of pecans. Texas pecan yields are projected to be down by 50% this season. The peanut crop in Texas is also suffering, with as much as half of it rated poor to very poor.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service predicts the California almond harvest will be another record setter at 975,000 tons. That’s 20% more than the record crop in 2010. The state is estimated to produce about 80% of the world’s almonds

Growers started bringing in the earliest of the almond varieties, the nonpareils, in the third week of August. Reports from the USDA said there was a prolonged blossom, which will likely cause an overlap in harvest of the nonpareils with the mission and California varieties.

Joe Bauer, director at Stapleton-Spence Packing Co., said the San Jose, Calif., company had been handling almonds for a few weeks as of Sept. 22. The nuts were looking fine, he said.

Bauer and Paul DeFranco, co-owner of Defranco & Sons, Los Angeles, said the USDA’s prediction of a record year for almonds will prove true. They said they expect prices to remain steady despite the high volumes.

“There is tremendous demand for nuts for exporting, especially in the Asian world. They’re paying prices higher than the growers are asking,” said DeFranco, who distributes nuts under the Sunripe brand.

A double whammy of weather and decreased acreage generated pitiful peanut predictions for the 2011 harvest across the Southeast.

Tyron Spearman, executive secretary of the National Peanut Buying Points Association, Tifton, Ga., said the good news is that peanut consumption is up, mostly because of use in snacks and candy in the U.S. and strong export demand. He said exports overall are up 9.6% compared to 2010, with shipments to Germany up 41%.

“I think that’s partly because of a lack of shipments from China,” Spearman said.

Normally U.S. peanut growers send about 25% of their harvest overseas. Spearman said he expects that number to remain steady despite a 13% reduction in acreage and the USDA’s projection of 17% fewer peanuts to harvest this year.


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