Clovis News

Demand for almonds, walnuts goes nuts

Global demand for almonds and walnuts -- two of California's major nut crops -- is expected to grow this year, federal officials say.

A recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report shows that global almond production for 2010-11 is forecast to swell by 12% to more than 1.9 billion pounds.

And exports will grow by 9%. Much of the demand is coming from emerging markets, including China, India and the United Arab Emirates.

Those markets have expanded by 80% in the last five years, said Tony Halstead, a USDA agricultural economist and author of the latest nut forecast.

The U.S. is the dominant supplier of almonds on the global market.

California produces nearly all of the U.S. almond supply, with leading producers including Fresno, Kern and Stanislaus counties.

This year, almond growers are expected to produce 1.65 billion pounds of almonds, an increase of 17% from last year.

And despite the limb-busting crop, almonds have remained popular with consumers. Nutritional research has shown almonds are a healthy snack and consumers worldwide have responded.

Like almonds, walnut exports are also trending upward and have benefited from nutritional research.

Jim Zion, managing partner of Meridian Nut Growers in Clovis, said walnut consumption has increased in Europe as more people eat the nuts for the healthful properties. Walnuts are a good source of protein and vitamin B and have beneficial fats.

USDA officials expect a 12% increase in walnut exports for 2010-11. Although China is the world's largest producer of walnuts, very little of its crop is exported.

The U.S., led by California, accounts for 60% of the global trade. And California supplies nearly the entire U.S. crop. Leading walnut growers include San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare counties.

"Walnut growers have reason to be happy these days," Zion said.

This year, the state's walnut forecast is a record: 510,000 tons, 17% larger than 2009's crop of 437,000 and more than double the crop production in 2000.