The forecast almond crop for 2021 is about 10% lower than 2020's record crop. Photo by Marcia Cripps via unsplash.com.
Written by The Business Journal Staff
California almond production is forecast to fall this year as drought conditions plague Central Valley agriculture.
Golden State almond farmers are forecast to grow around 2.8 billion meat pounds this year, down 10% from last year’s record crop of 3.12 billion meat pounds, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Services of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
While the crop started off on a good foot with dry weather in February providing ideal bloom conditions and plenty of opportunity for pollination, a lack of rain, low water allocations and record high temperatures last month degraded nut development, according to the USDA forecast.
“Some growers have decided to save their trees by stripping nuts before harvest,” said the report.
The northern end of California’s almond growing region above Stanislaus County appears to be taking the brunt of the downturn, with nuts per tree down 47% compared to last year’s samples, according to the regional forecast data.
Nuts per tree is only down 9% in the growing region including Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties.
The forecast drop of 10% also comes as as growers are “navigating a complex market with record shipments but with returns to growers down from recent years,” according to a news release from the Modesto-based Almond Board of California, which markets for 7,600 almond growers and processors in California.
“The report still forecasts a really large crop, and it’s further proof that California is an ideal place to grow almonds, even in difficult times,” said Kent Stenderup, chair of the Almond Board of California. “It’s also a testament to the hard work of growers and their efforts to improve stewardship practices and meet the demands of consumers despite the hurdles we’re facing this year.”
The forecast — created by taking a sample of nuts from almond orchards across the state — runs counter to a forecast released in May stating the crop would be about 3% higher next year.
That forecast was based on interviews with growers.
Despite the lower forecast for 2021, demand for California almonds is high in the U.S. and around the world, according to the Almond Board. Competition for a smaller 2021 crop could also mean higher prices for growers. Last year’s record crop pushed returns below the cost of production.