THE Australian almond industry is on track to reach a productive capacity of 160,000 tonnes delivering a forecast farmgate revenue of more than $1 billion.
The nut continues to be the crop of increases: increased exports, increased consumption and increased plantings.
The Almond Board of Australia's recently released 2019/2020 Almond Insights paints a resoundingly healthy picture of the sector, with a glowing future as well.
Orchard area planted to almonds increased from 45,088 hectares in 2018 to now 53,014 hectares in 2019.
The number of almond trees planted in orchards totals more than 15.4 million.
The 2019 almond production was 104,437 tonnes, the largest crop to date.
Australian almond exports were worth $772 million in 2019-20.
One of the recurrent points of emphasis throughout the report is the crop's water efficiency and "bang for buck" in terms of profitability from water input.
According to the report, 95 per cent of almond orchards are efficiently irrigated using drip systems managed by soil moisture monitoring technology.
The Almond Board's water policy aims "to ensure the Murray Darling Basin river system and its environs are healthy and can sustainably support a prosperous, diverse irrigated agricultural sector and its communities".
"It has supported this aim by leading the call for a moratorium on State governments in the Murray Valley issuing new water use licences that threatened the future capacity to deliver water to existing irrigators thereby maintaining a diversity of farm production," the report said.
In 2019, the Victorian government has wisely amended its approval process on selling annual use limits to new irrigation developments and has called on other States to do likewise."
"Water is a vital and large input into food production whether that be raising animals or growing crops.
"Almonds are no exception using between 12 and 14 megalitres per hectare on mature orchards to produce 3.2 tonnes of almond kernel and 6 tonnes of hull and shell that is predominantly used for cattle food and is a highly sought after food source in times of drought.
"Other uses are the production of compost and biochar to improve soils and mulch to save water."
In a written address within the report, Almond Board chief executive officer, Ross Skinner, said the industry leads horticulture in the adoption of irrigation scheduling technology to best match water application to plant needs.
"This further enhances efficient water use in producing almonds. In terms of revenue generated per megalitre of water applied, the almond industry is a leader and the communities where almond production occurs are prospering as a result," Mr Skinner said.
"Almonds are a highly suitable crop for horticultural production in Southern Australia with a high return per megalitre of water used and are a product with a long shelf life compared with fruit and vegetables, providing a longer marketing season."
AUSTRALIA remains the second largest producer of almonds in the world.
Australia produced 7pc of the global almond crop. The USA grows 79pc of the world production.
The export volume of Australian almonds grew from 60,894 tonnes in 2018-19 to 76,556 tonnes in 2019-20.
Australian almond exports to China and Hong Kong grew from 20pc of Australia's total exports in 2018-19 to 52pc in 2019-20.
"The tariffs placed on the US by China as a result of their trade disagreements, have accelerated exports to China from 11,860 tonnes to 39,862 tonnes, an increase of 236pc," Mr Skinner said.
"The 2019 crop of 104,437 tonnes is a record for the Australian almond harvest, an increase of 31pc on production in 2018.
"The benefit of the large 2019 crop meant the additional production was able to be used to meet the additional demand from China."
Almonds were 71pc of Australia's total tree nut crop (measured as in-shell tonnes) while macadamias, walnuts, pistachios, and pecans accounted for the rest.
AUSSIES love their homegrown almonds.
Almonds remained the most frequently used nut ingredient in new products launched during our 2019-20 marketing year (i.e. from March 2019 to February 2020).
Annual per capita consumption of almonds in Australia is 1.13kg.
Domestic sales of almonds in 2019-20 grew by 5pc over the previous year to a total of 29,508 tonnes.
To put this in context, domestic almond sales five years ago were 22,033 tonnes and ten years ago were 14,322 tonnes.
This means that domestic sales of almonds have grown by 106pc over 10 years during which time the Australian population has grown by 15pc.
DESPITE healthy export and domestic consumption, almond orchard expansion has slowed, reaching an orchard area of just more than 53,000 hectares.
According to the report, the water market will ensure that limited water resources are directed to those industries delivering the most value.
"The benefit to the communities in almond producing regions is evident as the capital investment in establishing orchards and the revenue generated from them stimulates economic prosperity," it said.
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