California‘s 2012 almond crop turned out smaller than initially forecast. Taking the sting off a smaller crop is the fact nut quality is high and prices continue to rise.
USDAs first forecast was for a second straight record year with growers projected to produce 2.1 billion meat pounds, but the crop fell short of the projected mark. The 2011 crop totaled 2.03 billion pounds.
“Yields were down, particularly for Nonpareil,” says grower/processor Mark Turmon, “The nuts were on the trees but the crop just didn’t weigh out. The final size will probably be around 1.84 billion pounds.”
Turmon is managing partner in Friedenbach/Turmon Farms, a 1,600-acre San Joaquin Valley West Side almond operation, and administrator of Sierra Valley Almonds, an almond processing and marketing company based in Madera, Calif.
With demand for new-crop almonds outpacing supply, almond prices are up significantly – as much as a $1 to $1.20 a pound — over a year ago.
In late January, the in-shell Nonpareil price was $3.45 per pound. California varieties were then at $2.80.
Almond shipments in December were 159.24 million pounds, 1.3 percent higher than a year earlier and second only to the 160.97 million pounds shipped in December 2010.
“We’re off to a good start for this year,” Turmon says. “The industry will definitely sell the entire 2012 crop. In fact, we’re already starting to see good prices right out of the chute for the 2013 almond crop. We need a good size crop this year to keep prices reasonable for buyers, and supply flowing.”
Still, the new year isn’t without concerns for Turmon. As a grower, he’s not encouraged by reports of likely significant restrictions in district irrigation water allocations. And, as a processor he’s had to take additional steps to comply with new rules under the pending federal Food Safety Modernization Act.
“We’ll be following the same procedures we’ve been using to ensure a safe product,” Turmon says. “But, now we’ll be subject to audits and inspections of our practices. I’ve hired a full-time person to document our compliance with the various rules.”