Why California almond growers are smiling - The Packer

Why California almond growers are smiling

05/11/2011 12:07:09 PM
Don Schrack

Seems those California farm guys and gals have done it again — even in the face of cool, wet weather during the almond bloom.

Don Schrack
Staff Writer

Afternoon temperatures were hovering in the upper 40s back in March, too cold for the bees to fly, almond grower-shippers said back then. No bees, no pollinating.

I should have checked with the bees.

The final 2011 volume forecast will come at the end of June from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. The agency’s just-released preliminary forecast, however, calls for a record crop: 1.75 billion pounds. That’s 100,000 pounds larger than last year’s record deal.

The growth of California almond production is nothing short of amazing. It has skyrocketed 70% in just five years. The 2006 NASS forecast was 1.05 billion pounds.

Retailers about to pencil down expected almond f.o.b.s for the 2011 deal might want to reconsider and perhaps order early. Global demand for the California nuts continues to climb — with no end in sight.

“Not with the growing middle classes in China and India — and the Middle East also is buying more almonds,” said Susan Brauner, director of public affairs for Blue Diamond Growers, the Sacramento-based cooperative.

As a result, more than 70% of California almonds are exported, she said. Also expected to strengthen 2011 prices is one of the lowest carry-ins — the unsold almonds from the previous season — in several years, she said.

Australia, the globe’s No. 2 producer, had problems, and some Australian sources are projecting a 20% drop in volume from 2010, Mark Jansen, Blue Diamond president and chief executive officer, said in his first quarter 2011 newsletter.

“With a consumption growth rate of 8% per year, our industry will need a 2011 crop of more than 1.75 billion pounds to sustain its current growth,” he said.

Jansen will appear before the World Nut and Dried Fruit Congress May 21 in Budapest, Hungary. He’ll release more 2011 crop details at that time, Brauner said.

Whatever he reveals in Hungary will go up on the company’s website the following day, she said.

Visionary buyers may be smart to pay it a visit.

In the meantime, some facts from the Modesto-based Almond Board of California:

  • Per capita consumption of almonds in North America increased 82% from 2000-08;
  • European shipments of California almonds grew 54% in the past decade; and
  • California produces 82% of the world’s almonds.

“We’re not the only game, but we’re the biggest game,” Brauner said.

Depending on the weather, harvesting is scheduled to begin in late August or early September.

Per-pound prices just after the start of the 2010 harvest were $2.65. Prices this season should be in that same neighborhood, grower-shippers said.

E-mail dschrack@thepacker.com

What's your take on California's almond outlook? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.



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