MODESTO, Calif. — California has set a record for volume of almond shipments, with two months left in the 2020-2021 crop year.
According to a new report from the Almond Board of California, despite the industry facing COVID-19 limitations, tariffs and port challenges over the past year, increased consumer demand for almonds has led to an all-time high volume of shipments.
"The growth of this industry has been absolutely phenomenal," Richard Waycott, CEO and president of the Almond Board of California, told the Capital Press in a recent call. "I think it's amazing that global demand is very strong and our shipments are so big considering all the problems we've had with COVID, ports and Chinese tariffs."
The board's May 2021 report shows that the industry shipped 219 million pounds of almonds to markets around the U.S. and the world in May — a record for that month.
Acreage and production were also at record levels during the 2020-2021 crop year, which runs from Aug. 1 to July 31, according to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. From 2019's crop to 2020's crop, acreage jumped from 1.18 million acres to 1.26 million acres. Production this crop season hit 2.45 billion pounds, a record.
And international market growth has been significant. California produces 80% of the world's almonds, according to industry estimates.
The state's farmers ship to more than 100 countries, and even during COVID-19, export growth increased 30% from the previous crop year, according to the Almond Board.
The export regions with the fastest-growing demand for U.S. almonds include the Asia-Pacific region, mainland Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
From the 2019-2020 crop year to the 2020-2021 crop year, shipments to India increased 54%, to Hong Kong and China 72%, to South Korea 42% and to Vietnam 132%.
In Europe, overall imports of California almonds leapt 18% during that timeframe, with the largest growth in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Italy.
In the Middle East and North Africa, shipment growth was 31% in the United Arab Emirates, 20% in Egypt and 148% in Morocco.
“The worldwide appetite for almonds and our range of products continues to grow,” Waycott said in a statement. The report, Waycott said, "shows continuing high demand for California almonds."
Waycott said he believes people across the world love almonds because the nuts are versatile in a range of cuisines, provide health benefits and taste good.
Despite these gains for the industry, almond growers continue to face challenges as drought across the West intensifies.
Waycott said he and the growers he represents are pushing officials for more irrigation efficiency options and water infrastructure. Waycott said his priorities include promoting more groundwater recharge, stormwater use, recycling of municipal wastewater and best practices for deficit irrigating.
"Our water use has improved over time, and I think there's still a lot we can do," said Waycott.