This has been a year of record almond sales of nearly $700 million and record payments to almond growers, members of the Blue Diamond Growers farmers cooperative were told this week at their annual meeting in Modesto.
"Since 2001, returns have increased on a per pound basis above the prior year by 26 percent, 35 percent, 43 percent and 27 percent respectively,” says President and CEO Doug Youngdahl. "Your 2005 crop payments were the highest ever paid in our cooperative's history."
Mr. Youngdahl specifically attributed the last five years of record grower returns to leaner, more efficient operations and strong customer relationships.
"Our partnerships with growers, employees, customers and others combine good planning and execution with powerful relationships that enhance and strengthen an already strong balance sheet," he says.
Blue Diamond's branded almond product sales increased by 36 percent in 2005-06, after doubling over the last three years.
While almond bearing acreage is expected to increase by 25,000 acres to 605,000 acres in 2007 and an additional 50,000 acres per year to 2010, Mr. Youngdahl says the challenge will be to "effectively market the increased supply while not under-valuing California almonds." He calls the estimated increase to 1.5 billion pounds a "golden opportunity to introduce millions of new consumers worldwide to California almonds."
Due to larger future crops and a significant increase in bearing and non- bearing acres committed to Blue Diamond over the last year, the cooperative is building a new 70,000 square feet cold storage distribution center at its plant in Salida. A new processing line designed to produce almonds at high speed and volume will also automatically segregate out foreign material and optimize new capacity opportunities in Salida.
An "erratic 2005" marketing year that reached historically high prices above $4.00 per pound in September 2005, deflated prices to $2.00 per pound later in the year and then moved up by $1.00 per pound during the balance of the crop year, is now settling in to a less volatile marketplace for the 2006 crop, according to Mr. Youngdahl.
"Adequate 2006 crop supplies should keep market prices steady and shipments strong," he says, adding that fall shipments were at near record levels, strengthening market confidence.
"The industry needs a good 2007 bloom next February and a substantial crop to sustain the 25-year California almond consumption trend that has been increasing at an average rate of 5.4 percent compounded annually," he says.