We grow a lot of almonds in California, and the one thing almonds need is hard to come by in our arid state: water.
Five things you need to know:
- Raising almonds is an expensive business, but these babies are precious. They are California's top valued agricultural export making $4.9 billion in 2019. They keep the economy of California's wheels turning, even in a drought, creating more than 100,000 jobs.
- Since almonds need a lot of water to grow, some farmers are ripping out their trees to plant something that needs less water to grow: younger almond trees. This means fewer nuts for now. According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, June was one of the driest months for 127 years in Central California. That's not good news — if you're a nut.
- The bad nut news is the forecast for 2021's almond crop, which looks like it'll be down 10% this year due to drought conditions. The good nut news: Despite this dip in production, demand is still high.
- Farming almonds is a risky business. But 2019 and 2020 were what's called "Super Bumper Crop Years," which ironically meant farmers got less in their pocket per nut sold. That's because there was a "glut of nuts," meaning farmers got less than what they spent to grow them.
- A smaller crop in 2021 of 2.8 billion pounds means a smaller amount to sell, so the price goes up, which is pretty smooth if you're a grower — but a bit hard to swallow if you're a buyer because it will be expensive.
In the face of a drought, it may seem that California's obsession with almonds is slightly misplaced, but the real truth lies behind its economic and nutritional double-punch that is vital to California's economy. They're expensive and hard to farm, but will that stop state farmers from trying to grow one of the world's most famous and most profitable nuts?