Jakarta – An increasingly severe drought in California, United States (US), threatens the US$6 billion almond industry. California produces 80% of the world’s almonds (Prunus dulcis). After decades of developing the industry, almond production is expected to decline, thus increasing prices.
While the drought continues in California, almond trees, which are very water thirsty in the state, are under threat. California produces about 80% of the world’s almonds, a $6 billion industry.
Not being able to get or buy water forced some farmers not to irrigate their fields, leaving the trees there to die. Others don’t plant the fields so that the saved water goes completely to the almonds. If the water situation does not improve, some farmers are preparing to dismantle their gardens years earlier than planned.
That’s the situation of the almond field, 180 degrees changed from the nut’s expansion period in California’s Central Valley. The Mediterranean’s dry climate and reliable irrigation systems make it the perfect location for growing almonds, a popular nut.
California almond production grew from nearly 168 million kg in 1995, to a record 1.4 billion kg in 2020, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Almonds are one of the major crops, and the largest agricultural export, of California. About 70% of California almonds are exported overseas. Very high demand from India, East Asia and European Union.
In May 2021, the USDA projected that almond harvests there would reach a record 1.5 billion kilograms this year. But in July, that projection was reduced to 1.3 billion kg, citing low water availability and record heat.
Jim Jasper is now the owner of Stewart & Jasper Orchards, the company his father formed in 1948 in Newman, California. The company processes about 27 million kilograms of almonds annually from more than 80 square kilometers of orchards, including about eight square kilometers of its own gardens. Some of his neighbors have stopped irrigating their almond groves.
“We’re going to see the number of almonds from California going down a little bit. The world is going to start experiencing a decline in almonds,” he said.
Tom Stokely, a board member of the California Water Impact Network, said the state should ban water-hungry crops, such as almonds, in areas that do not have adequate water supplies.
“With climate change, drought and heat waves, things are going to change very quickly or we’re going to see this state collapse. We need to do something about it.” (ka/ab)/Associated Press/voaindonesia.com.