Monday, February 12, 2007

California's 2006 almond crop a bin buster

Elizabeth LarsonCapital Press Staff Writer

Almond production in California has hit an all-time high, the Almond Board of California reported today.The board's 2007 Position report states that California almond production through Jan. 31 of the 2006-07 crop year jumped 22 percent over the previous year, resulting in a record high 1.092 billion pounds.California leads the nation and the world in almond production, said Marsha Venable, the board's communications coordinator. Eighty percent of the world's almond production is located in California, said Venable. California in turn exports 70 percent of its crop, she said.The growth in production didn't come from increased acreage, Venable said, most of which hasn't come into production yet."It really was just a good year for the sets on the trees," she said.That, together with good weather conditions, resulted in this record-breaking crop, said Venable.Along with the record production, the board is reporting increased demand in domestic and foreign markets.January crop year-to-date shipments increased 27 percent versus the same time period last year, the board reported, resulting in record-breaking numbers for domestic and export markets.Domestic shipments are up 23 percent overall, with record monthly shipments in each of the last five months, the board reported. In addition, export shipments were up 29 percent from last year.The Almond Board reported that the top five export markets this crop year are Germany, Spain, India, Japan and China, representing 50 percent of all California almond exports.Increasing knowledge about the health benefits of almonds is one factor in the growing demand, Venable said."People have become aware of the nutritional value of almonds," she said, adding that the "heart healthy" message about almonds has gotten out.The Almond Board also has been marketing the nuts globally, she said, which includes working to expand the role of almonds in peoples' diets beyond desserts, pastries and confections.The production count is expected to go on for the next five months, Venable said, but more than 98 percent has already been recorded.

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