A recent report states that almonds have finally overtaken grapes as Kern County's most valuable crop. Not only did the tree nuts move past their perennial no. 2 ranking, but industrial hemp debuted at no.14.
The 2019 Kern County Crop Report released Tuesday detailed a 2 percent increase in gross sales, which examines farmer revenues as opposed to retail prices. It built on the 2018 crop report, which showed a 3 percent sales jump from the year before.
Last year's overall sales increase belies a sales decline for most of Kern's leading crops. There were four crops that surpassed the $1 billion sales mark in 2018, but only two that did so in 2019: almonds and grapes. Pistachios and citrus traded places in the sales ranking last year, leaving citrus on top as pistachios went through what the industry calls an alternating "off year."
The U.S. pistachio crop declined by about a quarter in 2019, Richard Matoian, executive director of the American Pistachio Growers trade group, told bakersfield.com. By that standard, Kern's 22 percent sales drop to $886 million "actually beat the averages," he said.
At the same time, pistachios were the county's only crop among 2019's top four that reported a more than 2 percent increase in acreage. The amount of land devoted to grapes declined in Kern by 5 percent and the amount of almond acreage shrank by about one-tenth of 1 percent.