The Plight Of California’s Almonds

As you all know, California is in a midst of an acute drought. This affects all Californians and its prized almond industry. Also coming into play is the honey bee which have been dwindling in numbers not only in California, but the whole country. Almond growers need the honey bees to pollinate their flowers.

According to Mother Jones magazine, it takes about a gallon of water to grow a single almond. Almonds also use 10% of California’s agricultural water supply.  But farmers in California’s Central Valley, the world’s most productive agricultural region, are now paying as much as 10 times more for water than they did before the state’s record drought cut supply. Costs have soared to $1,100 per acre-foot from about $140 a year ago in the Fresno-based Westlands Water District, which represents 700 farms, said Gayle Holman, a spokeswoman.

Although bee colony populations are now starting to rise again, the devastating collapse in honey bee numbers starting 10 years ago have forced high prices in hive rentals. Beekeepers are charging almond pollination fees of as much as $200 to rent a single beehive this season. That’s as much as five times the rate charged in 2004.

So the higher water and bee hive costs are bringing into question the importance of almonds. Do we need them? The almond is America’s favorite nut!

The price of almonds rose from around $2.50 three years ago to over $4 per pound in 2014 according to Vernon Crowder of Fresno’s Rabobank. Farmers started planting new almond trees at an historic rate. Now that the price has dropped 20% since 2014 because of oversupply, the profit margins have dropped due to higher costs of water and bee hives. If the farmers’ profits have been reduced, should they be using much-needed water on almonds?

With that said, the almond growing season is off to a fantastic start as can be seen with the photos below. Almond growing must still be profitable. Hopefully the drought will cease and honey bees continue to make a comeback. Almonds are rich in energy and healthy mono-unsaturated fats. The nuts have good nutrient profile packed with anti-oxidants, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. I personally eat a lot of almonds.


Almond trees are at full bloom in the San Joaquin Valley of California


Almond trees are at full bloom in the San Joaquin Valley of California


Almond trees are at full bloom in the San Joaquin Valley of California


Almond trees are at full bloom in the San Joaquin Valley of California


Almond trees are at full bloom in the San Joaquin Valley of California


Almonds on the tree.

14 responses to “The Plight Of California’s Almonds”

  1. It looks like snow! All those blossoms must smell heavenly. Were they buzzing with bees?
    I’m a big fan of almonds, too. To eat (almond croissant and marzipan) and drink as milk, but also almond oil in soaps, lotions, and lip balm. After reading this, I can see why I just had to pay $12.99/# for my tamari almonds! I feel a bit guilty contributing to a water shortage, but as you can see, I’m a bit hooked on this little nut!


  2. Excellent post, Michael. I see the almond groves when we drive through CA and it’s really nice to see your close-ups and landscapes. I love almonds, too, I just wish they weren’t such a thirsty crop. The bee collapse is frightening and I hope they are recovering.


  3. I didn’t know almond trees are this beautiful. The drought is frightening, say the least. I had an impression, part of the CA is getting some rain, may not be enough. I eat almonds almost everyday.
    Thank you, Michael for the beautiful post and information.


  4. Great photos! There was lots in the news last summer about the amount of water it takes to get those almonds to market. Regardless of that they sure are beautiful trees in bloom aren’t they?!


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