The USDA/NASS objective estimate was out on Monday, Pacific time. For the 2021 crop there is an estimated 2.80 billion pounds expected. This is significantly lower than the subjective estimate in May that called out a possible 3.2 billion pound crop. There was a gasp heard around the world, as this number represents the largest reduction in crop in the last 7 years. The debate has begun on the NASS’ methodology, and with any polarizing news there are many opinions, those embracing the number, and those that are refusing it. The same people that happily accepted last year’s 3.0 estimate are not buying into this one.
So what’s changed? Well, California is struggling through a major drought, in fact all of the western states are being affected by drought. We are having one of the hottest summers on record and forecasts show it will continue through harvest. This is taking its “toll” on the almond crop. The consequence of the “mega drought”, as its now being called, is that orchards are being abandoned and older orchards (that may have otherwise survived through a good water year) are being pulled to better manage water for younger trees with higher yields, etc. All Federal and State allocations have been revoked; the farmers are left to manage the worsening conditions on their own. The NASS report goes on to show the Nonpareil crop, which represents 38% of the entire crop, will be 15% down on last year. We are also seeing in the report that this could have the smallest kernel sizes on record.
Whether the objective estimate is accurate or not may be beside the point. California is in trouble. If this crop is struggling, it doesn’t bode well for next year’s crop. In amongst all this doom and gloom, let’s remember that we will have a crop and we have a long way to go. With grace, things can get better in the days to come.
Remaining Benchmark Dates:
Final shipping report for the 2020 crop year: August 12, 2021