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World going nuts over California almonds

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image California almond orchard. Photo courtesy mental.masala/flickr

California produces 80 percent of the world’s supply of almonds.

Bakersfield, Calif. -- California almond growers announced a record 1.65- billion-pound production of almonds for local consumption and export in a recent harvest.

Reflecting a large growth in almond orchards in the state over the past five years, farmers are shifting their productions of cheaper vegetables to the new “in farming" of growing, harvesting and exporting nuts. Currently, California has 810,000 acres of planted almond orchards, up 25 percent from 10 years ago, and now lays claim to producing 80 percent of the world’s supply. Spain trails California as the second largest producer. 

California growers have also cornered the U.S. market; the Almond Board of California claims "virtually 100 percent of domestic supply"in its 2010 Almond Almanac.

Almonds on the treeAccording to the U.S. Department of Commerce, almonds are now the largest export crop in California, beating out milk, cheese, wheat, apples and wine. Experts said this new high in almond exports is due to increased consumption and demand in developing nations, such as China, where imports of the nuts rose from 16 million pounds to more than 133 million pounds during the past five years. Experts are speculating that Africa and South America, largely untapped markets, will be the next focus of the nut-growing industry, which expects to make gains in various countries on those continents, too.

Image: Almonds on the tree. Photo courtesy mental.masala/flickr

Star power has helped in the industry’s growth as well. The Almond Board hired Chinese actress Gao Yuan Yuan to promote almonds for the Chinese New Year as part of its largest marketing campaign in China yet.

Gift-giving is traditional during the winter months in India, so the California almond industry seized the opportunity to hire Indian actress Karisma Kapoor to make promotional spots for their product. "We have no mature markets or consumers who have reached a point even close" to eating as many almonds as they can, said Richard Waycott, Almond Board CEO.

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