The California heat and water issues have affected the 2021 almond crop.
Bikram Hundal of Custom Almonds LLC. in Earlimart, CA says it’s into new crop almonds and are already shipping them in fact. Following last year’s record crop of 3.1 billion lbs. of almonds for California, this year’s estimate is sitting at approximately 2.8 billion or about 10 percent lighter than last year.
Hundal says this year’s estimate is sitting at approximately 2.8 billion or about 10 percent lighter than last year.
“The crop was early by about a week this year because of triple-digit temperatures and the ongoing water issues,” Hundal says. “We’ve also noticed that there’s not much weight on the nuts this year. This means that someone who is used to buying bigger sized almonds might not get them and they may only be able to buy smaller sizes this year.” He also noted that the second variety, the pollinators, are also early.
To manage the water issue and the heat the state has been experiencing, almond growers, who were already using micro irrigation techniques to manage its water, were irrigating more this year and shifting to deficit irrigating at night to retain more water in the soil.
Domestic demand has been steady for almonds and increased even over last year.
Meanwhile competing with California are Australian almonds, though with its harvest in February, its crop is relatively all sold. Almonds are also coming from Spain and some from Chile, too.
Domestic demand has been steady and has increased even over last year. Overseas, India, a significant almond consumer and a key market for the state’s almonds, has also been steadily buying at this year’s higher prices. “However there’s been little interest from European markets. Whenever there’s a sudden increase in market price, the buyers get scared,” says Hundal.
Prices pushed up
Given the slight decline in production this year, prices are up by almost $1 compared to last year. “Last year’s prices were much lower. Some growers were hardly able to break-even and prices were rock bottom,” says Hundal. “But this year, along with less production, the cost of business has gone up as well due to the pandemic so prices have moved up.”
The team from Custom Almonds.
As to whether prices will continue to move, that remains to be seen. “If the crop is 2.8 billion lbs. or below, we will see a slight bump in the prices. However if the crop is higher than 3 billion lbs., then we’ll see the price might come down to a little higher than last year’s levels,” he says.
Along with heat and water challenges, Hundal says that shipping overseas has been a nightmare due to continued shortage of shipping containers and vessel availability. “The shipping carriers are either cancelling their routes last minute or are delayed. This bottleneck has added onto higher warehousing costs and impacts the cash flow along with it,” he says.