California’s almond crop may fall short of harvesting the record 2.1 billion-meat-pound crop predicted early this summer by NASS. Nevertheless, members of the Central California Almond Growers Association (CCAGA) are smiling.
“Our area harvested a better-than-expected crop,” says Mike Kelley, president of the association. CCAGA members hail from southern Tulare County north to Merced.
”We feel really blessed that our yields aren’t off as much as other areas. We’re very surprised. Although some of our growers lost nuts to a little spring frost, pollination in our area may have been better than elsewhere.
“I understand that almond production in Butte County in the Sacramento Valley was OK. However, I’ve heard reports that yields were off as much as 20 percent to the south of us in Kern County and down about 15 percent to 20 percent farther north in the San Joaquin Valley.”
Kelley estimates California’s almond production will total maybe 2 billion meat pounds. That would be slightly smaller than last year.
He looks for about 20 percent of this year’s crop to be marketed as in-shell.
“Our industry has had two to three years of very good in-shell volume, and that’s likely to continue,” Kelley explains. “We’ve found a great spot in the market for them in China and India. They’re driving the in-shell sales.”
The largest cooperative almond huller/sheller in the world reports CCAGA nut quality been very good this year. However some loads reflected late navel orangeworm pressure. “We’ve received some product from the extreme western side of the San Joaquin Valley with very high worm damage,” he says. “That was due to abnormally high heat in July, which caused an additional generation of worms to feast on a bountiful crop.”
While large nut count sizes are being reported across the board this year, the proportion of smaller nuts seem to be more variable than in prior seasons. He attributes that also to hot July weather, which, combined with a loaded trees, caused some almonds not to size. “Sizes of the Nonpareil were highly variable,” he says. “But, as we moved into the pollinators, we didn’t see that as much.”
The CCAGA plant received its first load of 2012 almonds on Aug. 15.
“It’s been an ideal season for everyone,” Kelley says. “The crop has been very dry, so it shells easily and efficiently. Our throughput has been very good this year. We’ve been running several weeks ahead of normal in terms of receiving and processing the nuts.”
Running around the clock, the association’s four shellers process about 1.1 million meat pounds of almonds every 24 hours
The peak delivery day was Sept. 2, when the plant received 5.2 million pounds of in-shell almonds.
Last year, the plant received 104 million meat pounds. Kelley expects to process about 100 million meat-pounds this season
Expectations of a smaller almond crop than in 2011 have pushed prices much higher than a year ago. He reports large count size Nonpareils are selling for about $2.90 a pound, about 50 cents more than smaller Nonpareils. Meanwhile, prices for California varieties are in the $2.20 to $2.50-per-pound range, depending on size.