Despite a week of 100 degree temperatures during the summer, the Californian walnut crop for the year is forecast to be 415,000 short tones, 74 percent above numbers recorded in 2000.
This works out to be 4.4 percent lighter than the bumper harvest reported last year, but California Walnut Commission said it is still a good result. Such numbers should keep walnut prices steady and give food manufacturers a stable supply of good quality nuts.
“Walnut growers have experienced good growing conditions this year despite 100 degree temperatures lasting more than one week during summer months,” said CWC chairman Sam Keiper. “This year’s crop is not last year’s but it’s a high-quality crop and we’re very happy with it.”
Walnuts continue to enjoy popularity as an ingredient in a variety of food products, especially bakery and confectionery snacks, and the discovery of new health benefits in recent years has helped drive sales growth.
Illustrating the point, CWC said that in 2004 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a qualified health claim for walnuts on the back of clinical research supporting cardiovascular health benefits.
Keiper said: “Walnuts continue to enjoy strong consumer preference because they are the only nut that contains a significant amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant based omega-3 essential fatty acid.
“As one of the best food sources of omega-3s, a one ounce serving of walnuts provides 2.5 grams of ALA.”
The Californian walnut industry is made up of over 4,000 growers and 61 handlers. It is a thriving base for walnut production, but despite strong recent harvests, there is some concern about the future.
A recent study published online by PLoS One, from the University of California, Davis and the University of Washington, said climate change could spell disaster for the Californian fruit and nut industries.
The decline of the winter chill could make the state unsuitable for nut and fruit growing because cooler temperatures are needed to ensure uniform flowering and sufficient yields. The researchers said the situation could be particularly severe for the walnut and pistachio industries, which rely on male and female flowering at the same time to allow for cross-pollination.