California’s drought puts a damper on absolutely nuts almond demand

Demand for almonds is higher than ever, but so is the risk in growing them.


July 7, 2021

There’s a solid chance you’re snacking on almonds while reading this.

And there’s a great chance those almonds came from drought-prone California, whose $6B almond industry generates 80% of the world’s supply, per The Wall Street Journal.

Outside of almonds, California produces of the US’s fruits and nuts and more than of its veggies (thanks, Cali).

But the state’s current drought is… less than ideal

For starters, California recently survived a different drought, one town has been delivering bottled water to its 1.2k residents for weeks, and meteorologists predict more to come.

Like we said, less than ideal — especially for an acre of almond trees, which can guzzle up 1.3m gallons of water a year.

In the meantime, almond demand is nuts

US farmers produced a record 3.1B pounds of almonds in 2020.

Some more almond joy:

  • Blue Diamond Growers — makers of Almond Breeze — grew sales last year to $1.6B, more than twice the previous decade
  • California’s international almond exports were way up in 2020 (Morocco: +148%, Vietnam: +132%, India: +54%)

But the drought is forcing farmers to change plans

Seth Fiack, a rice farmer, decided to stop farming altogether and instead sell his water for $575 per acre-foot, which is “a volume of water one acre in size, one foot deep,” according to the New York Times.

Almond farmers are making changes, too:

  • Mark Jansen, who runs Blue Diamond, will likely reduce the company’s international exports
  • Stuart Woolf is considering replacing 400 acres of dead almond trees with a solar farm

Oh yeah, that’s another problem: Without water, California’s hydroelectric dams — which generated ~17% of the state’s power in 2019 — are gonna have a tough time charging up.

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