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Tracing Tracy Territory

Mostly rosy outlook as almond growers harvest record-setting crop

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Almond harvest 2020

Almonds are shaken from a tree in an orchard east of Tracy by a mechanical shaker operated by Benjamin Ceja of Sandhu Bros. Farms. After a week on the ground, the almonds are vacuumed into bins destined for the Royal Nut Co. processing plant on Chrisman Road.

Harvesting of almonds, the most extensive and fastest-growing agricultural activity in the Tracy area each year, has moved into high gear in orchards throughout the region.

The knocking, sweeping and sorting of almonds are all part of California’s record-setting 2020 almond crop estimated at 3 billion pounds, which is 17.6% more than last year’s production of 2.55 billion pounds, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported.

Having more young trees coming into production this year along with beneficial weather conditions in February when trees were blossoming without rain interference set the stage for the record crop.

Harvesting started 10 days or more earlier than normal this year and has been gaining momentum since July 24, reported Mike Sandhu, whose family operation, Crown Nut Co., grows almonds and processes them at its Chrisman Road facility. Harvesting will continue into October.

“We estimate our crop is 12 to 15% larger than it was last year,” Sandhu said. “We’re averaging 2,500 pounds per acre with good quality.”

The one downside in the mostly rosy almond picture in California is the price paid to growers. Many varieties, including the early-maturing Independence variety, which requires little or no pollination by bees, are in the range of $1.43 to $1.44 a pound. Nonpareils, the premier variety, are closer to $1.60 or slightly higher per pound.

Although the U.S. market makes up the largest share of the Crown Nut Co.’s sales, foreign customers are still important, Sandhu said. Tariffs imposed by China and India as part of a trade war with the U.S. are hindering sales to customers in those countries to a degree, but not completely.

India especially imports a great percentage of its almonds still in the shell, while other foreign customers, including those in Europe, prefer shelled almond meats.

Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at shm@tracypress.com.

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