Walnut industry officials in September excitedly predicted an excellent harvest this season, and their enthusiasm gained support from the USDA. The agency forecast a 5% bigger crop from 2022 despite fewer bearing acres. Pricing at the start of the marketing year is up 40% over where it ended last year, which is causing some grower consternation that buyers accustomed to discounted walnuts may be reluctant to pay more for this year’s crop.
This year’s crop is expected to have produced nut kernels that are meaty and light in color during a compressed harvest season. This season is also expected to benefit Californian growers because of less carry-over inventory as a large portion of previously harvested nuts have been sold to the government for nutritional assistance efforts.
Still, the USDA has revised its California walnut production forecast from an initial 790,000 tons down to 760,000 tons. This year’s numbers were reduced based on revised production and acreage removal forecasts. Assuming 2.03 tons per bearing acre, that acreage is now 375,000 acres, down by at least ten thousand acres, the first time in years that bearing acreage in the state has decreased.