According to almond producer David Phippen, his industry is on the verge of losing its premier position in the global market. He saw it coming in 2020, during the pandemic, when oceanic carriers discovered they could make twice as many annual round trips by sending empty containers back to Asia to pick up more goods for export instead of waiting in US ports to be loaded with almonds. Almond exports are down by about 13% this year, industry officials said.
“It’s all about money,” Phippen stated. “After years of prospering together, foreign shipping vessels have decided to stop servicing us.”
California’s almond industry is trouble. Roughly 7,600 California farms produce 82% of the world’s almonds, but they don’t get paid until their product gets delivered in robust markets like the European Union, China, India and the United Arab Emirates.
This means that the prospect of harvesting 2.8 billion pounds this year has industry leaders both excited and worried. That’s because about 1.3 billion pounds of unsold almonds are still sitting in piles at processing and packing facilities.
The problem comes at a time when inflation and a historic drought are pushing the costs of production and water supplies to an all-time high, and the price of almonds has fallen to an all-time low of about $2 per pound.