GERBER, Calif. — The harvest of nuts in California is winding down, and growers say ideal conditions have helped them gather what was already an early crop.
At Pacific Farms and Orchards here, the walnut harvest was finished up last week, and tonnage was about the same as last year, general manager Brandon Flynn said.
“Some varieties were a little better and some were a little down on yield,” he said. “Harvest conditions have been pretty much ideal with nice weather and temperatures that have allowed us to progress through the harvest quite quickly and efficiently.”
Growers have said walnut yields have depended on variety this season. Overall, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service had predicted a slightly smaller crop than last year’s 497,000 tons, although last year’s final production figures exceeded expectations.
Growers of almonds, the state’s leading nut crop, were expecting about a 2 percent drop in yield from 2012 but still expect to produce one of the largest crops in the state’s history at 1.85 billion meat pounds. Finished orchards were being irrigated, fertilized and pruned last week, NASS reported.
The Golden State’s 255,000 bearing acres of walnuts this year represent an all-time high, according to NASS. The acreage boom is helping to meet demand that is growing both domestically and internationally, as 60 percent of California-grown walnuts are sent to Asia, Europe and the Middle East, the California Farm Bureau Federation noted.
With this year’s crop slightly smaller and with a freeze in China affecting walnuts there, a resulting shortage could push prices to growers up more than 20 cents per pound over last year, the state Farm Bureau reports.
“Market prices are strong,” Flynn said. “There’s a good deal of competition among handlers trying to source walnuts.”
Among other crops in California, according to NASS:
• The rice harvest was about three-quarters finished last week and half the state’s cotton crop was picked by the week’s end. Alfalfa growers were getting another cutting as drying conditions remained good.
• The picking of all types of grapes continues, as do the apple and Asian pear harvests. The fig, peach, nectarine and plum harvests are complete, while citrus growers are preparing for the first navel oranges to come off trees. Tomato harvest is winding down, as some fields are being replanted with winter crops.
• The lack of rainfall continues to take its toll on range and non-irrigated pasture lands, as most is rated in fair to very poor condition. Cattle are being moved to lower elevations, and the supplemental feeding of hay and grains is ongoing.
NASS California Crop Weather: http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/California/Publications/Crop_Progress_&_Condition/