Mike Sandhu, whose family is a major grower and shipper of almonds in the Tracy area, reports that the local harvest, which started a week later than last year, is in line with the statewide estimate with yields varying in the normal range,
“It’s better than last year,” he said. “We’re averaging 2,500 pounds of nuts per acre, but it depends on the orchard.”
This is the first year California will harvest 1 million acres of almonds, 60,000 more acres than a year ago. And more almonds are on their way, as the number of recently planted almond trees in Tracy area fields attests.
“My estimate is that between Tracy and Gustine, close to 1,700 acres have been planted with trees in the past year,” Sandhu said.
Mike Petz, who grows almonds and also harvests nuts for other growers, reports seeing yields averaging slightly lower than last year but varying from orchard to orchard in the Vernalis area.
Petz reported that he has mostly completed harvesting Nonpareils, the largest variety of almonds, and the harvest of the Independence variety is underway. A good share of the new orchards coming into production or recently planted are of the Independence variety, which is self-pollinating — eliminating, or at least greatly reducing, the need for bees to pollinate trees.
“There’s a two-year waiting list for growers to acquire young Independence trees to plant,” Petz reported.
Petz pointed out that there was no excess carryover from last year’s almond crop, and that has created a firm basis for demand for this year’s harvest. As usual, the nonpareil variety is earning the highest prices.
The ability to turn a profit with a nonperishable crop requiring minimum harvest manpower and the continuing strong worldwide demand for almonds as a health and snack food are key factors driving the increased planting and production of almonds in California, the world’s principal almond-growing area.
Sandhu, who operates the family’s Crown Nut Co. on Chrisman Road, noted that shipments of California almonds to foreign markets are up 16 percent this year.
“Our largest market, about 30 percent, is in the U.S., and the rest of our sales are in India, China and Europe,” he said.
Moving shipping containers of export almonds through the Port of Oakland is going smoothly this year, he noted.