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  • Prices stabilize as Calif. growers harvest record almond crop

    Sep 1st, 2016

    The harvest of a record 2.05 billion pound almond crop is in full swing in California as lower prices have fueled greater demand for the commodity.Growers’ water efficiency and favorable conditions are credited for a crop that the National Agricultural Statistics Service projected up from the 2 billion meat pounds it estimated in May.

    In the Tehama County almond orchards owned by brothers Kevin and Eric Borror, yields have been about 10 percent above average, Kevin said.”Things are going fairly smoothly,” he said. “The pollinators are going right behind the Nonpareils, so hopefully it’ll be a quick harvest.”

    A 2.05 billion pound crop would be up about 8 percent from last year’s yields and would beat the then-record 2.01 billion pounds produced in 2013, according to NASS. Growers are harvesting from 900,000 bearing acres, up from 890,000 last year.But while the 2015 crop was smaller, it outperformed expectations, which shook the world markets and caused a price slide, said Richard Waycott, president and chief executive officer of the Almond Board of California.

    Prices fell by nearly half in the past year from the more than $4 a pound that was paid for some almonds, although the current average going rate of $2.50 a pound for Nonpareils is still profitable, the California Farm Bureau Federation reports.The reduced prices and the continued development of new products using almonds have helped revive demand, leading to record shipments in the last three months, according to the Farm Bureau.

    “I think the world is waiting to make sure this crop is the size we think it is,” Waycott said. “We’ll have a better idea about a month from now, when we most likely will see people take long-term positions.”This year’s crop was buoyed by better precipitation and chill hours last winter than in the previous two years and a quick and uniform almond blossom, according to NASS. A break in rainfall in mid- to late February seemed tailor-made for almonds, as bees moved through orchards in a couple of weeks.

    So far, the size and quality of almonds have been good, Waycott said. The Nonpareil variety, which accounts for 38 percent of California almonds, is expected to weigh in at 780 million meat pounds, up 7.4 percent from last year’s deliveries, NASS predicts.Waycott is confident that this year’s bumper crop will meet the rebounding demand.“We’re very optimistic,” he said. “We proved to the world and to ourselves that we could move a lot of almonds at pricing that was significantly higher than it has been historically.

    “I think the psychology of the world market was ready for a price decline,” Waycott said, noting that walnut prices saw a similar drop. “What we want to do going into this crop year is get pricing in a range that’s agreeable to everyone.”