California walnuts are having a record harvest year.
“It’s still too early to give a total crop size. But the objective estimate that came out this year at the beginning of September was for a record 780,000 tons. And relative to our estimates, we’re probably trending near that number. It’s the largest crop by a fairly sizeable margin,” says Mark Calder of Primavera Marketing Inc. in Linden, CA.
Walnuts are an alternate-bearing item and clearly this year is an ‘on-year’ for the nut. “Throw in a few thousand extra producing acres and there you go,” says Calder. “The writing was on the wall that we would start getting numbers this size but we anticipated this a year or two down the road.”
Strong demand for walnuts
Meanwhile demand for walnuts has been good. “Considering all the circumstances everyone is still facing around the world, demand has been good,” Calder says, though he largely attributes this to the lowered pricing on walnuts.
In terms of consumption trends, the move is towards determining alternative uses for walnuts, particularly given the size of the current crop. “Flavorings is something I think will be introduced more and more in the coming years in the snacking section—similar to flavored almonds for example,” says Calder.
One thing walnut shippers such as Calder would also like to see to help consumption is pricing on walnuts evolve somewhat. While some retailers pass along reduced costs to consumers to keep the product moving, others are less interested. “It can deter people from a cost standpoint as the product in general is more costly than other nuts. It’s also a negative because without the sell through, we never have the best and freshest product available to the consumers,” says Calder. “I don’t believe many consumers understand how great the flavor of a fresh walnut is. Trying to get this freshness to the consumer is a major priority for us and will certainly help accommodate our increased supply in the future.”
As for current pricing, Calder notes low pricing should help with the added tonnage this crop year. “Also, COVID-19 also backed up inventories. The world stood still for a period of time and that’s carried into the front-end of our harvest and busiest selling months,” he says.
Looking ahead, pricing could possibly move though. “This price has spurred a bit of extra demand but it’s also created some extra fear amongst shippers to try and sell a larger percentage of their inventory during fall and early winter,” says Calder. “As we get closer to the holidays, hopefully the lower price helps sell a larger percentage of each individual shipper’s supply, you could see this price stabilize if not move up a little bit.