Fall festivals and the wedding season are already ramping up in India, and almonds are a popular gift for such occasions. This could mean that the timing was perfect for California’s almond growers, and Indian almond traders are awaiting the arrival of the shipments for the festival season demand beginning early September.
However, the new Indian tariffs could dampen California’s bumper crop. While California produces 80 percent of the world’s almonds, Americans consume just over a third of California’s harvest. The remaining 67 percent is exported to other countries. California almond growers are on track for a bumper crop this year, producing a record 2.5 billion pounds of almonds, which would be a nine percent increase of over last year’s crop.
California growers have reason to worry about access to one of their biggest export markets. The Indian government increased tariffs on U.S. shelled almonds by 20 percent and non-shelled almonds by 17 percent in June. The move came days after the Trump administration announced plans to remove India from eligibility for key trade privileges under the U.S. Generalized System of Preference (GSP) program. India was the biggest beneficiary under the GSP program, exporting $5.6 billion worth of Indian products to the United States duty-free in 2017.
According to globaltrademag.com, the latest tariff increase by India comes on top of an increase in customs duties last year and in addition to a 12 percent tax the Indian Ministry of Finance imposes on both domestic and imported almonds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts the increased cost will cause a five percent drop in U.S. almond exports to India, impacting the 6,800 almond growers in California, who are mostly small to medium-size, family-run enterprises.