Monday, June 1, 2015

That’s All They Ask: Eat 77 Million Cans of Almonds a Week

 The commercial debuted on TV in 1986. 

The “actors” were a group of plaid-shirted farmers standing waist deep in almonds, flanking one grower wearing a white chef’s hat and apron and holding a can of the almonds in his left hand. Their catchy message: “A Can A Week, That’s All We Ask.”

Blue Diamond growers pitch almonds.   - Blue Diamond photo
The folksy television spot by growers cooperative Blue Diamond Almonds went on to become one of the most successful and memorable advertising slogans in the world. Who could have imagined that nearly three decades later the California almond industry would grow into an economic and agricultural powerhouse – a $6 billion a year industry. Next to dairy, almonds today rank as the state’s No. 2 farm commodity and California’s largest export crop.
President Reagan participated in Hands Across America.

For trivia buffs, Ronald Reagan occupied the White House, gasoline cost 89 cents a gallon, 7 million people joined Hands Across America, “Out of Africa” won the Oscar as best movie and Halley ’s Comet soared past Earth in 1986. That year, California growers produced 217 million pounds of almonds on 367,000 acres.

Since then, almond acreage has steadily increased annually. This year, bearing acreage is forecast to reach 890,000 acres with production coming in at 1.85 billion pounds – 8 percent below the 2 billion pounds produced in 2013.
“It’s shaping up to be another good marketing year for the almond business,” almond marketer J. Carlos Arrellano told San Joaquin Valley growers recently. “Prices will remain where they are today. They are a dollar a pound above last year’s prices. We’re definitely seeing record prices.”

The price rise, he said, is due to a combination of factors, including heavy demand overseas and  lower production caused by the drought and pollination problems. Production is predicted to slip 1 percent from 2014 despite an increase in bearing acreage, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service in California.

The drought is likely to impact almond yields this season.
“The drought is going to impact the market in how everything is sold, depending on yields,” said Arrellano of Merced County’s Hilltop Ranch Inc., one of the largest privately owned almond processors. In particular, growers on the Valley’s Westside and as far south as Kern County could be hit with lower yields because of tight water supplies.

“Consumers already have seen price increases. It’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing lower shipment numbers for this year.” The strong U.S. dollar can affect consumer sales in Europe as well.
 Arrellano said bearing acreage is likely to continue rising as trees planted the past few years start becoming productive.

Almonds are California's No. 1 export crop.
 “We have been seeing more plantings in the past couple of years. It does take four years before they come into production. We won’t see that increase in supply right away."

However, the two-decade long climb in almond acreage could start to level off in the coming years, especially if record high land prices keep rising and water supplies keep shrinking.  “The key thing is the drought. If you don’t have water is going to be difficult to plant.”

Field Day Alert:  Cotton growers can learn valuable insights about insects and water and weed management during a mid-season Cotton Field Day on Tuesday, June 16 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the D&V McCurdy Farm, Highway 33 in Firebaugh. Speakers are Dr. Pete Goodell of UC Statewide IPM, Dan Munk of UCCE Fresno County, Kurt Humbree of UCCE Fresno County and Bob Hutmacher of the Westside Research and Extension Center. For more information, contact Marcia Gibbs of the San Joaquin Sustainable Farming Project at (530) 370-5325. See you there.

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