Friday, May 11, 2007

2007 almond crop could crack new record

Initial estimate is 1.3 billion pounds, up 17 percent from 2006Bob KrauterCapital Press California EditorSACRAMENTO -

Based on the initial forecast issued today, 2007 could be another record year for California almond growers. The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service in Sacramento reported that this year's crop could tip the scale at 1.31 billion pounds, up 17 percent above last year's record harvest of 1.12 billion pounds. "There was some rain during pollination in some areas, but it dried up and warmed up and it didn't end up being a problem," said Jenny Peterson, a NASS mathematical statistician who helped compile the report. The 2007 crop will come from 615,000 bearing acres, also a record. Some almond tree limbs are bowing and breaking under the weight of the heavy set. "It seems like the nonpareil variety seems a little bit lighter in general from last year because they are an alternate-bearing crop and last year was a big year for them," Peterson said. "But it is still a real heavy set."Almond trees received adequate chill hours during the winter and there appeared to be adequate bees for pollination. Bouts of gusty winds felled trees and broke limbs in some areas during spring, but Peterson said the problem was not severe based on the survey sampling of 470 growers."It didn't appear to affect things too heavily. They didn't think it was too much worse that the usual drop that occurs on May and early June," she said. "Out of all these people we surveyed, I don't remember more than a couple comments about high winds."The USDA survey was conducted from April 23 to May 2. The agency had 340 growers report for the survey."This is a really good number (crop estimate) and we are confident with it," Peterson said. California almond acreage and production have been on a steady rise in response to generally strong prices and the ability of the industry to market larger and larger crops. Almonds rank as the state's number-four commodity with $2.3 billion in farmgate value in 2005, the latest statistic available. Almonds are California's top export accounting for more than $1.8 billion in sales abroad in 2005. The state produces virtually all of the U.S. almond supply. Top counties are Kern, Stanislaus and Fresno.

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