The 2022 almond harvest, Stanislaus County’s mightiest ag commodity, is expected to be down 11 percent from last year, according to a report published by the National Agricultural Statistics Service. 
NASS estimates that this year’s crop will come in at 2.6 billion pounds, some 300 million pounds shy of last year’s haul and 500 million pounds short of 2020’s record-setting output. Additionally, the figure is 7 percent short of a NASS projection made just two months ago.
“Growers have been working hard in the face of challenging circumstances and it demonstrates their dedication to improving stewardship practices and meeting the demands of consumers,” Brian Wahlbrink, chairman of the Almond Board of California’s board of directors, said in a press release.
The forecast isn’t without a silver lining for state farmers who produce roughly 80 percent of the world’s almonds.
With a massive amount carry-in from 2021 — think of carry-in as leftover almonds from last year that are used to help satisfy demand before the current crop comes in — it can create too much supply and depress prices. That’s bad for growers who typically need a minimum of $2 per pound to cover production costs. A smaller harvest would help create larger demand and bring prices back up to sustainable levels for farmers.
“We’re trying to get the supply and demand back into balance,” said almond farmer and Stanislaus County District 2 Supervisor Vito Chiesa. “Hopefully, we can get this straightened out.”
Some California growers were affected by severe frost in the spring and all continue to be hammered by drought and rising water costs. When you factor inflation, rising fuel prices and supply-chain issues, it creates a market where $2 per pound might not be enough for farmers.
“Despite the shipping and logistical logjams, recent shipment numbers have set monthly records, which demonstrates the demand for California almonds continues to increase in the U.S. and around the world,” Richard Waycott, president and CEO of the Almond Board, said in a press release. “Almond growers are putting what resources they can afford into producing their crop, and their efforts show. Although there was a drop from last year, the forecast reflects the efforts of growers to meet global demand and ensure a steady supply of high-quality California almonds.”
The report also shows an average of 4,082 almonds per tree, which is 12 percent lower than a year ago. The average kernel weight for all varieties sampled was 1.47 grams, up less than 1 percent from the 2021 average.
“The numbers are not a disaster,” Christine Gemperle, co-owner and operator of Gemperle Orchards, said of the NASS forecast. “If it anything, it’s stabilizing. But are we going to get to a place where we can be financially viable again? That’s the question.”
Chiesa thinks they will.
“I’m an optimist,” said Chiesa. “But I have to be. I’m a farmer and farmers are hopelessly optimistic.”