California almond leaders predict a bullish future for the state’s largest tree-nut industry, valued at more than $3.8 billion in 2011.

During annual reports at the 2012 Almond Industry Conference in December, Richard Waycott and Bill Harp outlined the industry’s positive future to the rousing crowd of 2,400 almond industry enthusiasts.

“There is no doubt that we need to continue investing in production in order to satisfy the world’s desire to consume more California almonds,” said Waycott during the 40th annual event, held in Sacramento, Calif.

Waycott serves as the Almond Board of California’s (ABC) president and chief executive officer.

“We have once again had a remarkable year,” Waycott surmised. “Almond production and shipments were outstanding in the fiscal year which ended July 2012.”

World demand for California almonds continues to increase.

The 2011 California almond harvest exceeded the 2-billion pound mark for the first time in history. Shipments grew by 14 percent topping out at 1.9 billion pounds. The 2012 crop year produced 5 percent to 10 percent fewer almonds, tied largely to weather.  

California growers produce about 99 percent of the U.S. almond crop on about 760,000 bearing acres. In 2011, the almond industry ousted grapes as California’s second largest agricultural crop in value.

Dairy holds California’s top spot valued at about $7.6 billion, about double the value of almonds.    

Bill Harp, first-year ABC board chairman, spoke as an industry leader and almond grower. Harp is the chief operating officer of The Fabbri Group which grows about 10,000 acres of almonds, wine grapes, cotton, and other crops; mostly in the Bakersfield, Calif., area.

Almond grower prosperity, Harp says, is based on cost control, good yields, and fair prices. These factors combined with the positive direction from the ABC, he says, continue to lead the almond industry in the right direction.

Continuous improvements in crop production and market development are instrumental to continued growth.

“Continuous improvement is at the heart of our industry,” Harp said. “By continuing to make improvements, we will guarantee a sustainable future.”

Average California almond yields have doubled over the last 20 years. Harp says cost containment and increased yields will help keep the industry strong. It all boils down to net grower returns.

“In order to ensure the orderly growth of our industry, we need to capture fair value.”

Waycott and Harp also discussed the new ABC global market roadmap implemented last year to direct the industry into the future.  

“We believe we’ve taken major steps forward this year; even major leaps forward in several areas,” Waycott concluded.

The Almond Conference began in 1973, attended by 50 people. Over the years, the event was held in Sacramento, Fresno, and for the last 18 years in Modesto.  

The conference moved back to Sacramento in December due to increased attendance and the need for additional space.