The predicted record breaking 2011 almond harvest is underway in farms throughout the Central Valley.
In July the United States Department of Agriculture predicted an all-time record crop of 1.95 billion meat pounds, coming from 750,000 California almond bearing acres. This will account for nearly 80 percent of the world’s entire almond supply and 30 percent of that comes from Stanislaus and Merced counties. The average nut set per tree this year is 7,353, up 23 percent from 2010.
Livingston almond grower Scott Hunter said the harvest is improving.
“We had a lot of start and stop — meaning we would shake the almonds off the tree and then we would run into some green. But now we’ve hit our stride and things are going smooth,” he explained.
Blue Diamond Grower’s Central California harvest report for August reported harvest operations were off to a slow start in the central and eastern regions, with many growers not starting operations until late August.
Joe Kollmeyer, general manager of Turlock’s Cortez Growers Association, said the harvest is currently less than 50 percent complete. The harvest season will last until late October or early November, depending on when and how much wet weather comes to the Valley.
“Many growers have modified their irrigation schedules this year with the intent of promoting an earlier harvest. With memories of the difficulties suffered last year, all are anxious about the late start and the prospect of rain during the harvest,” Blue Diamond noted.
Early this spring almond growers faced chilly, wet weather and a shortage of honey bees for pollination. Despite the challenges, the cold weather actually lengthened the bloom, bees managed to pollinate and weather damage to the almond trees was minimal.
In May the USDA predicted an already impressive 1.75 billion pound crop, but in the following two months that number ballooned 11 percent to 1.95 billion.
“We expect to see the crop estimate achieved. Now the crop is coming in fast and we are seeing high quality,” said Kollmeyer.
According to Hunter and Kollmeyer, almond prices have not seen any significant drops, which was a concern originally when the record breaking prediction was made.
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