Early indicators suggest that California’s almond harvest will be significantly short of the record 2.1 billion pounds predicted in the 2014 National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) report.
Mark Jansen, CEO of Blue Diamond, the largest cooperative of almond growers in the world, said early Nonpareil crop numbers were as much as 30 percent short of the estimate based on numbers from the south San Joaquin Valley, which began shaking trees earlier this year than in past seasons.
Michael Kelley, president and CEO of Central California Almond Growers Association echoed Jansen’s thoughts on the overall crop size and quality.
Kelley said early Nonpareil numbers were down as much as 20 percent with growers in his association. That number has since improved to 16 percent down.
According to the Almond Board of California, August harvest volume was 40 percent ahead of what was received in 2013, suggesting that growers across the board were harvesting earlier. Kelley said his association started two weeks ahead of their production run last year.
To put all this in perspective, Jansen says the harvest of pollinizers will need to exceed last year’s number in order for the state to achieve a total crop of 1.9 billion pounds.
Quality is good
Still, quality appears to be good with the earlier crop.
“The nut count size is a bit better this year than it was last year,” Kelley said.
Most surprising to Kelley was the early start and the quick harvest.
“We’re almost fully delivered,” Kelley said on Sept. 12. “For us to be done this time of year is pretty incredible.”
Based on what Kelley is seeing, this year’s actual crop receipts could be 1.8 billion pounds, or even less. While this is well off the NASS objective forecast issued June 30, it is statistically much closer to the subjective estimate of 1.95 billion pounds NASS released two months earlier.
California’s 2013 almond yield came in at two billion pounds.
Jansen said another dynamic is taking place within the almond industry; that is the decision by almond handlers to hold crop rather than sell it, even at the tremendously-high prices they’re currently seeing.
“Even with very good prices the uncertainty of harvest has made California reluctant to sell this crop,” said Jansen.
“In comparison to recent years, very little business has been done this summer,” Jansen continued.
Kelley said the lower crop numbers are already starting to push up the price of almond hulls, a major feed component for California dairies.