USDA Report Predicts Continued Increase in Almond Production in 2021

USDA-NASS’s California Almond subjective crop forecast predicted an increase over last year’s record crop, though water supply may cut into production (photo by Marni Katz.)

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s (USDA-NASS) 2021 California Almond Subjective Forecast is predicting an increase in the California almond crop.

The initial subjective forecast is estimated to be 3.2 billion pounds, 3% above last year’s production of 3.12 billion pounds. Forecasted yield is expected to hit 2,410 pounds per acre, slightly lower than the 2020 yield of 2,490 per acre.

“What we’re seeing with this report is a forecasted continuance of high yields,” said Richard Waycott, president and CEO of the Almond Board of California (ABC). “Water availability will be the principal concern on growers’ minds as they continue to grow this crop. We look forward to the outcome of the Objective Report to see if it corroborates this estimate.”

The Objective Report will be released in July and will contain a second production estimate based on a more statistically rigorous methodology to determine yield. Some within the almond industry say drought conditions may make the USDA-NASS subjective forecast hard to achieve.

Kevin Long of Superior Almond Hulling in Fresno County finds it difficult to believe that current water availability will allow for 3.2 billion pounds of almonds.

“It’s hard to imagine we’re going to be able to reach or exceed last year’s crop,” Long said. “I’m a little more on the pessimistic side, I guess. I think it will probably be in that 2.8 [billion-pound] range. Who knows, these almond trees and growers are pretty resilient. I’m thinking our volumes will be off about 10% from last year.”

Although yield per acre is expected to see a decrease in 2021, acreage across the state has continued to increase.

In the 2020 California Almond Acreage Report, USDA-NASS reports a continued increase in California’s almond acreage, with bearing acres up 5.9% (1.25 million acres) from 2019 and total almond acreage, including non-bearing acres, up 5.3% (1.6 million acres).

“California almond bearing and non-bearing acreage continues to increase, indicating almond production will also rise in coming years,” said Waycott. “Demand has consistently been very strong during this crop year, with global shipments YTD (August 2020 to March 2021) up 17.7% as production crossed the three-billion-pound threshold for the first time.”

Land IQ’s spatial analysis for its 2021 Standing Acreage Initial Estimate shows that between September 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, 44,303 acres were removed and estimates that an additional 3,500 acres will be removed from April 1 to August 31, 2021 for a total estimate of 47,803 acres removed.

Land IQ, a Sacramento-based agricultural and environmental scientific research and consulting firm, began collaborating with ABC in 2019 on a mapping process for the spatial analysis in which two acreage estimates will be released annually: the initial estimate of bearing acreage in the spring and the final estimate, with both bearing and non-bearing acreage for the same production year, delivered in the fall. In addition to the acreage estimates, Land IQ will annually produce an estimate of removed acreage.