Aided by drier fall weather, the 2012 harvest was smoother and earlier for California’s almond growers than the previous one.
Production was down this year. Demand is strong and prices are up significantly, reports Paul Ewing, sales manager for Hilltop Ranch, Ballico, Calif.
Earlier this season, USDA/NASS projected that California growers would harvest 2.1 billion meat-pounds. “The industry, in general, is expecting a smaller crop than that. Our company expects the 2012 crop will total 1.9 billion to 2 billion pounds,” Ewing says.
Last year, California growers produced a 2.02-billion-pound crop
The 2012 crop is better as you go north. The trees in the southern areas were recovering from a heavier crop last year, he notes.
Several heat spells in June and August resulted in an additional flight of navel orangeworm this year and, subsequently, more insect damage to the 2012 crop. These temperature spikes also resulted in more chipped and scratch nuts during processing, Ewing adds.
A decline in sales to the Middle Easthas been more than offset by continued growth of sales to North American buyers and to China. “This is one of the best years for prices in a long time for growers,” Ewing says. “Prices are 70 cents a pound higher than 12 months ago. They’ve increased 35 percent for Nonpareils and 43 percent for California varieties.”
However, Hilltop doesn’t expect these prices to significantly impact sales, but they could slow the rate of demand growth. For example, almond shipments are 3.8 percent higher now than a year ago. Last season shipments grew by 13.8 percent over the 2010 crop year, and double digit demand growth had become the norm, Ewing notes.
“Our long-term outlook (http://www.hilltopranch.com/2012/07/almond-outlook-2012-forward/) indicated a strong probability of higher prices for the coming years due to the lack of plantings a few years back,” he says. “Those higher prices have arrived. They’ll probably remain stable for the next three months. We’re bullish on the almond market from this coming February forward.”