( Courtesy California Prune Board )

Forecasts were pointing up for most tree nuts and dried fruit crops as the 2018-19 marketing year wound down, and the next crops were starting or completing their newest harvests.

Almonds

The early forecast for the 2019 California almond crop was 2.5 billion pounds, with production predicted to be 9.6% above the 2.28 billion pounds of the previous year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Forecasted bearing acreage for 2019 is a record high of 1,170,000. Forecasted yield is 2,140 pounds per acre, 2.4% higher than the 2018 yield of 2,090 pounds per acre. 

The 2019 almond crop dealt with “significant rainfall” during the bloom and strong winds afterward, according to USDA.
Growers said they were optimistic about sizing.

“The 2019 crop is just starting to come in, and we are encouraged by what we see so far,” said Mark Jansen, president and CEO of Sacramento, Calif.-based Blue Diamond Growers, which specializes in almonds. 

“Most of the state started the year off with significant wet weather occurring through the critical bloom period. Conditions were good in later spring and early summer.”

Harvest runs from August through October, Jansen said.Pistachios

Pistachio production was forecast to hit about 986.7 million pounds for the 2018-19 marketing year, which was up 64.4% from a year earlier, according to the USDA. 

For Los Angeles-based The Wonderful Co., pistachio harvest runs from September to August each year, said Adam Cooper, senior vice president.

“The year ending 8/31 was a record on-year crop, with good quality and continued strong global demand,” Cooper said. 
“We expect the upcoming crop year will be a normal off-year, with the California crop down 200–250 million pounds from this past on-year.”

Demand for pistachios continues to be strong among consumers, Cooper said.

Pecans

U.S. pecan production from October 2018 to September 2019 was expected at 221.2 million pounds, on a utilized in-shell basis, down 27% from the previous year, on overall reduced bearing acreage and lower yields, the USDA said.

Production is down across all eight reported pecan-producing states, with the biggest losses in big producers, Georgia and Texas. Hurricane Michael in October 2018 affected Georgia production, the USDA reported.

In other states, pecan production declines were down due to “off-year” production in an alternate-bearing cycle, the USDA noted.

Walnuts

The 2019 walnut crop was estimated at 630,000 tons — down 6.8% from 2018’s crop of 676,000 tons. 

Walnut bearing acreage continued to trend upward, with 15,000 new acres coming into production this year, for a total of 365,000 bearing acres.

Prunes 

The 2019 California prune crop was forecast at 110,000 tons, up 38% from the previous 80,000 tons forecast in 2018, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which surveyed growers in May. 

The agency estimated total bearing acreage at 44,000, or about the same as the previous year. 

“California prune growers are amid prune harvest and are on track for a healthy crop this year, and the fruit is setting up to be the exceptional quality for which California is known,” said Donn Zea, executive director of the Roseville-based California Prune Board.

California provides 99% of the U.S. prune supply, Zea said. 

The 2019 harvest has begun “slightly later than usual,” concluding in mid-September, Zea said.

This year’s is a “strong” crop, said Stephanie Harralson, senior product manager for Yuba City, Calif-based Sunsweet Growers Inc.

“The prune crop has been strong in California, with the wet weather and good blooming temperature,” she said. 

Prune plums are harvested in August, but prunes are available year-round, she said.

“We expect growth in the dried fruit category, including prunes,” she said.

Dates

The date crop in California endured a “cooler-than-normal” spring and summer, which delayed harvest by 10 days, said Robert Dobrzanski, president of Bakersfield, Calif.-based Atlas Produce and Distribution Inc.

“Yet this will not affect supply for our customers because we anticipated this, and we will have a smooth transition to the new crop with no supply gaps,” he said, noting that harvest generally runs in September and October.

“But we pack and ship fruit 365 days a year,” Dobrzanski said.  

The volume of medjool dates in Coachella, Calif., is increasing, but so is demand, “and with our Fresh Energy brand, we are experiencing great growth and demand,” he said. 

“Our retail partners have seen 30% growth with our Fresh Energy product line.” 

 
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