The almond co-operative Blue Diamond saw production increase by 100% in the decade up to 2012.
The business, owned by 3,000 growers, says that it is on track to increase by the same volume in the next four years, harvesting a 3,000,000lb crop (1,360 metric tonnes).
Growers will soon see their contribution to the almond marketing board reduce from 4c/lb to 3c/lb.
Blue Diamond is the largest almond co-op in California; its average grower has 77 acres. Almost 99% of the growers are family-owned businesses.
To raise capital for the co-op, 3% of each grower’s base price is kept in the co-op for three and a half years on a revolving return system.
However, Blue Diamond also has a low-interest loan program for its farmers.
One third of Blue Diamond revenue is commodity based, but two thirds is value-added products, such as sliced almonds, flour, oil, etc.
This year, our growers got $0.13/lb over the market price
“The goal is to give our growers an increased price over the market place,” said membership development manager Ben Goudie.
“This year, our growers got $0.13/lb over the market price.”
Blue Diamond has a global ingredients division, with most of its sales to the EU and China. It also has an almond innovation centre in Sacramento.
In recent years, Blue Diamond reported “tremendous growth in profitability with milks”.
Two months ago, it launched almond protein on to the market and entered the beauty market with a sweet almond oil for health.
How do you grow an almond?
The average almond orchard is in the ground for 25 years. Between eight and 12 years of planting, a tree reaches its breakeven point.
To set up an irrigation system in an orchard, including a reservoir and a pump, costs in the region of $3,000/acre (€2,640).
Every 30in to 40in, there is a dripper, if using a drip irrigation system over flood irrigation.
Blue Diamond says that drip irrigation increases yields by 15%.
A tree requires 48in of rain a year; typically 36in is applied and the rest is rainfall.
Almonds in California are the largest pollinating event in the world.
Almond blossom pollination \ Blue Diamond Almonds
Commercial bee-keepers bring in their bees and it costs approximately $200 (€176) to pollinate an acre of almonds.
Frost hit the 2018 crop in the spring, so growers turned on the sprinkler systems to mitigate the impact. Some growers have frost systems.
Weeds are kept down in orchards to help the ground absorb the heat from the sun in the day, protecting the tree from frost at night.
Disease, hail and pests are all issues for growers, as they damage the almonds. The biggest issue is the navel orange worm.
In July, the hull splits, allowing the kernel inside to dry to below 6% moisture over a few weeks.
Hull-split almonds. This photo was taken during the later season prior to harvest. \ Blue Diamond Almonds
Mid-August onwards is typically shake time. The harvest floor is prepped before shaking, as when the trees are shook, the almonds lie on the ground for a few days before sweeping into rows and picking them up.
Sweeping almonds to be picked up and processed. \ Blue Diamond Almonds
Over 10 days on the ground, 10% of the crop could be lost due to pests, particularly ants.
Yields would be approximately 1,200kg/acre of kernels.
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