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California is stuck with a billion pounds of almonds (yes, that’s ‘billion’ with a ‘b’)

Nearly 7,600 farmers remain unpaid for the almonds they grew, reports the Los Angeles Times.
California supplies 80% of the world's almonds; now a slumped market overseas is causing a backlog of the seed.
California supplies 80% of the world's almonds; now a slumped market overseas is causing a backlog of the seed.Getty Images

Talk about being all dressed up with nowhere to go.

According to Los Angeles Times, 1.3 billion pounds of unclaimed almonds have been left stranded in California storehouses. High production rates from last year combined with a diminished market overseas are to blame. The COVID-19 pandemic also contributed to the backlog of tear-shaped seeds.

As the LA Times explained, in 2020, during the pandemic, oceanic carriers realized an opportunity to increase profit margins. Instead of waiting for billions of pounds of almonds to fill containers waiting at the Port of Oakland, carriers began to send empty containers back to Asia where they could be filled with more products. The result is that almond exports have plummeted by 13% this year.

“Roughly 7,600 California farms produce 82% of the world’s almonds,” explains the LA Times. “But they don’t get paid until their product gets delivered in robust markets like the European Union, China, India, and the United Arab Emirates.”

Export issues aren’t the almond industry’s only issue: The impact of inflation and the drought in California have increased the price of almond production.

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows drought conditions across California as ranging from abnormally dry to exceptional drought conditions. More, the map displays how 59.8% of the state is in extreme drought, and 97.5 is in severe drought conditions.

Spelling out trouble are two facts: The first is that almonds are California's top agricultural export, the state supplies 80% of the world's almonds. The second is that almonds are notoriously high maintenance; a single almond requires 1.1 gallons of water in order to grow.