Almond blossom

An almond orchard near Orland, Calif., blooms in early March. Almond acreage continues to increase in the state.

Almond acreage in California continued to increase in 2018, reaching 1.09 million bearing acres, up 6% from 2017.

Total almond acreage was estimated at 1.39 million in 2018, up 2% from 2017, according to an April 24 report from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

With the increase, almond growers remain committed to continuous improvement, finding ways to responsibly produce more almonds to meet global and domestic demand, said Richard Waycott, president of the Almond Board of California in Modesto.

In the past two decades growers have reduced the amount of water it takes to grow a pound of almonds by 33% and continue to work on harvest dust reduction, environmentally friendly pest management and zero waste, Waycott said.

More than 6,000 almond growers and processors in California produce about 80% of global supply. Demand continues to grow largely because of the health benefits almonds offer.

August through March shipments totaled 2.26 billion pounds. Sales from the 2018 crop wrap up at the end of July as the 2019 harvest starts.

An April 29 report by Blue Diamond Growers says orchards have been drying out following weeks of rain during bloom. Several days of wind reduced the potential for fungal development but also stripped nuts and blew trees over in many areas, the report said.

Overall, however, orchards are in good to excellent condition, the report states.

There’s quite a bit of variation in potential yields, with the best appearing in the southern San Joaquin Valley, where weather was best during bloom, the report says. Northern San Joaquin growers are seeing yield impacts from bacterial blast, particularly on sandy soils. The disease destroys flowers and reduces yields.

“Crop levels are more problematic in the Sacramento Valley where growers were enduring very adverse conditions during bloom,” the report says.

August through March exports to China, at 104.9 million pounds, are down 31% from the same period a year ago, apparently due to the new 50% tariff China slapped on almonds and many other U.S. imports.

India is the No. 1 export market at 170 million pounds, up 4%. Spain is No. 2 at 132 million pounds, down 5%. China is No. 3, Almond Board statistics show.

Germany and United Arab Emirates round out the top five at 75 million pounds, down 20%, and 57 million pounds, up 8%, respectively.

Japan, the Netherlands, Vietnam, Italy and Canada, in that order, finish the top 10.

Central Washington field reporter

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