None of the US almond industry leaders are likely to argue that 2023 has been a usual or easy year, or that the year ahead isn’t filled with challenges. Looking ahead, outgoing Almond Board of California President/CEO Richard Waycott has summarized this year; he came to a cautiously optimistic look ahead. He spoke about the current yield, saying: “Statistically speaking, it’s too early to put out any final numbers, although they are slowly mounting up to a crop estimate for this year of 2.6 billion pounds, comparable to, in fact almost to-the-pound, the same amount of production we had at the 2022 harvest. So the outlook is for a crop roughly the same as last year despite the delayed harvest caused by weather phenomenon that were further impacted by economic conditions.”

So, what will 2024 bring? “Taking into consideration all the confounding factors that have befallen the world in recent years, especially the world of agriculture --- the growth in population, more disposable income for the middle class, a focus on healthier foods --- these things portend well for the almond industry in general,” Waycott said.

There are many adverse factors as well that have appeared to begin to mitigate 20 years of unstoppable growth, he said. While it’s hard to pinpoint a single factor as the straw that broke the camel’s back, industry cost increases have been unprecedented.

“My internal optimism still believes California is the idea place to grow tree nuts and we have an innovative industry,” Waycott added. “We recently wrapped up a week of industry meetings up and down the valley and while the general tone was sombre in terms of the current situation, it was also very forward-looking --- what do we have to do on top of what we’ve already done to take things to the next level that is fraught with problems we haven’t had to deal with. We have a fantastic product and by-products and they’re not going away. We just need to build on today’s foundation.”