Farmers hit hard by China tariffs

209 Business Journal file photo
The state’s almond production is forecast at 2.45 billion meat pounds for 2018.

California’s almond crop is forecast to have a bumper year, but it’s unclear if farmers will be able to find buyers for their bounty of nuts.

The state’s almond production is forecast at 2.45 billion meat pounds for 2018, up 6.5 percent from May’s subjective forecast and up 7.9 percent from last year’s crop, reported the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The forecast is based on 1.07 million bearing acres. Production for the Nonpareil variety is forecast at 910 million meat pounds, down .8 percent from last year’s deliveries. The Nonpareil variety represents 37 percent of California’s total almond production.

The 2018 California almond bloom began a few days earlier than normal. The bloom period was extended, due to cold temperatures, and lasted a few weeks. Frosts during bloom hit orchards hard, especially on the east side of the valley. Younger trees were impacted more severely than older trees.

Weather during the spring was variable, leading many growers to be unsure about their 2018 crop. As temperatures warmed up in May, nuts were sizing well. Hull split sprays have just began and are expected to pick up soon. Mites have not been reported as an issue so far this year. Report of disease pressure in almonds also remains light.

The average nut set per tree is 5,677, down .6 percent from 2017. The Nonpareil average nut set of 4,924 is down 13.9 percent from last year’s set of 5,717. The average kernel weight for all varieties sampled was 1.54 grams, down 1.9 percent from the 2017 average weight of 1.57 grams. The Nonpareil average kernel weight was 1.70, unchanged from last year. A total of 98.8 percent of all nuts sized were sound.

Despite holding the number one spot as Stanislaus County’s top crop in 2016, almonds posted the largest value decrease, dropping $366 million from 2015 to 2016. Almonds were ranked as the top crop in 2015 as well, but with a total value of $1.3 billion. The crop dropped below the $1 billion mark with $931 million in total value in 2016, the last recorded crop value.

Agricultural Inspector Richard Homer, who helped compile statistical data for the 2016 report, said that despite a record-breaking number of almond acres in Stanislaus County in 2016, reduced prices for almond meats (a drop of $2,460 per ton), hulls (dropped from $130 to $60 per ton) and shells (dropped from $25 to $5 per ton) resulted in a drop in value for the crop.

“Some companies were giving away their shells to clear their inventory,” said Homer in 2017.
California farmers are also feeling the effects of new tariffs announced by China on April 2.

On March 8, the Trump administration announced global steel and aluminum tariffs to protect U.S. producers, exempting many nations – but not China. The country fired back at America by levying 12 to 25 percent tariffs on $3 billion worth of American goods. The crops that will be hit the hardest include almonds, which could face an additional $28 million in duties.