The RFM almond orchards produced over 4 tonnes per hectare in 2015, their highest crop yield to date. This combined with a record high almond price of $11.45 per kilogram will result in a substantial distribution for the growers in RFM’s 2006, 2007 and 2008 Almond Projects. It is expected the distributions will be paid in October after the Projects accounts have been audited.
The 2016 harvest is set to produce a smaller crop, around three tonnes per hectare, due mainly to the biennial cycle of the almond trees. Daryl Winter, RFM National Manager of Almonds, said almonds have a see-saw pattern, with production reflecting ‘on and off years’.
“The 2015 harvest was a huge crop. As a result, the trees are likely to produce a lower yield in the following year as they recover from the strain of bearing such a huge crop”.
Daryl added that the combination of high yields and record prices that occurred in 2015 is unusual. “We wish every year could be like 2015, but unfortunately it’s unusual for the yields and price to align so perfectly.”
The drought affecting the Californian almond crop helped drive the almond price well beyond the ten year average in 2015. However, prices have eased in recent months driven by market optimism for the Californian crop size as California returns to average rainfall and snow pack. This optimism unsettled buyers causing falls from the exceptionally high almond price levels.
“As the drought eases, buyers are expecting California to produce a larger crop in the 2016 year. Many buyers are waiting to see what yields come out of the US and that has led to a price drop,” according to Daryl. He adds that there had been some buyer resistance due to the higher prices with processors looking to change their ingredient mix and the quantity they are buying.
Despite the recent almond price falls, it remains at historically high levels with RFM’s expectation currently at around $9 per kilogram price for the 2016 crop. The lower Australian dollar is also softening the price impact. Daryl and the farm team are currently in full harvest mode, with the aim of completing harvest before the usual rain arrives in late March.
“We had some issues with the pollination period this year with a lot of rain during the period and this makes it difficult for the bees to do their job,” Daryl said. This has compounded the reduced yield in what was already set to be a light crop year.
“It’s normal for the orchard yield to cycle on and off each year, and with the introduction of a pruning regime and careful monitoring of the irrigation and fertilizer mix, we think we can get these trees performing better and reduce the swing down to as little as half a tonne per hectare in the off years”.
RFM will provide a more detailed update on the current 2016 harvest in late March.