What is in this article?:
- California almond growers poised to shatter crop record
- Bullish prices
- California almond growers prepare to harvest a limb-breaking, record-setting meat crop near the 1.95 billion pound mark;
- Statewide almond yields could be 19 percent higher than last year;
- Grower Denis Prosperi of Madera expects to start harvest around Aug. 25 – about nine days later than last year.
Prosperi, the CCAGA board chairman, farms 400 acres of almonds and 330 acres of wine grapes. Grape varieties include Chardonnay, Ruby Cabernet, Syrah, and a handful of others. Prosperi also farms 200 acres in southern Australia; 80 acres of almonds and 120 acres of wine grapes.
“I think the nut size will be a little larger than usual given the large nut load,” Prosperi said.
Prosperi estimates nut sizes range from 22 to 26. Nuts are sized according to how many almond meats constitute an ounce of almonds. A size 22 nut means an ounce includes 22 nut meats.
He also faces a delayed harvest due to cool and wet spring weather. Prosperi hopes to complete harvest prior to the fall rainy season.
“My almond crop is about a week behind last year and about 10 days behind normal,” Prosperi said in late July. “If the (dry) weather holds this fall it really won’t matter.”
Prosperi expects to kickoff harvest around Aug. 25. Last year’s harvest began about nine days earlier.
Summer temperatures have also been slightly cooler. Lower temperatures throughout the growing season helped reduce mite pressure on the Prosperi and Nichols almond ranches.
Prosperi shells his crop through the farmer-owned CCAGA cooperative. The crop is marketed by Panoche Creek Packing in which he is a part owner.
On the statewide almond crop, Prosperi estimates production at about 1.92 billion pounds.
Mike Kelley, CCAGA president and chief executive officer, talks often with association members. He predicts the California crop will tally in the 1.85 to 1.90 billion pound range.
“It’s a very good crop,” said Kelley, based at the CCAGA headquarters in Kerman in Fresno County. “Last year we didn’t have high yields on the soft shell varieties Nonpareil and Sonora in our growing area. We are expecting higher volumes this year.”
Kelley says CCAGA member almond production could average 1,950 to 2,000 pounds per acre.
“A 2,000 pound per acre yield average would set a CCAGA record,” Kelley said.
A 2,000 pound per acre crop would total about 87 million pounds for the CCAGA. The largest crop produced by members is 81.2 million pounds.
Kelley says many association members have smaller operations and older orchards. The cooperative this year includes 368 active members representing 42,000 acres of production; mostly from Merced (Merced County) to Pixley (Tulare County). The non-profit group has sheller-huller facilities in Kerman and Sanger.
“This year there is a huge load on the tree and the nut size is smaller,” Kelley said. “From the shelling standpoint that’s a wonderful thing. Smaller-sized nuts shell out a lot easier.”
As California almond tree plantings continue to rapidly increase, the CCAGA this year expanded its stockpile yard in Kerman by 25 percent (35 acres) – a $50,000 investment - to accommodate future record crops.
Almond prices are always a bottom line issue for the California almond industry.
“I’m very optimistic that prices will remain at respectable levels records for the remainder of the season,” Kelley said. “As the crop comes off, there could be some price strengthening.”
Nichols and Prosperi are bullish on almond prices due to continued strong consumer demand-related almond shipments.
Yet Nichols said pricing can be negatively impacted by external macroeconomic factors that have little to do with the supply of almonds, including a stronger U.S. dollar, a collapse in the value of the Euro currency, and government policy changes in China.