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October 2020, Volume 26, Number 4

California Agriculture

California tree nut farmers harvested record crops in 2020, including three billion pounds of almonds, a billion pounds of pistachios, and 780,000 pounds of walnuts. Tree nut acreage has expanded rapidly in California. Almonds were the most valuable commodity in Kern county in 2010, one of the state’s Big 3 farm counties, displacing grapes for the first time.

Some 2,000 California farms produce almost all US raisins from 150,000 acres around Fresno; a third of US raisins are exported. However, raisin exports and US sales have fallen. Given a large raisin inventory, grower prices are expected to drop in 2020 and drive smaller growers whose vineyards yield less than two tons of raisins per acre, out of business. USDA expects 1.4 million tons of raisin grapes and 1.4 million tons of table grapes in 2020.

California has 270,000 acres of citrus: led by 117,000 acres of navel oranges;66,000 acres of mandarins; and 50,000 acres of lemons. The acreage of mandarins is growing rapidly, the acreage of lemons is growing slowly, and acreage of the other citrus crops is falling. The largest acreage mandarin variety is tango, accounting for 30 percent of mandarin acreage.

The Produce Marketing Association estimates that 45 to 48 percent of fresh produce tonnage goes to food-service firms, including restaurants, cafeterias and institutional dining, from hospitals to prisons. Uncertainty about their ability to open or remain open prompted most food service buyers to reduce fresh produce purchases to avoid waste. Pizza and pasta replaced salads on many restaurant take-out menus, and salad bars closed.

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