While some horticulture industries are having one of the most challenging harvests with workforce shortages and heavy tariffs, one sector continues to go from strength to strength.

Key points:

  • Australia’s almond regions are projected to harvest the country’s largest almond crop on record this year
  • 123,000 tonnes of almonds are expected to be harvest in the coming weeks
  • China is expected to be the largest export market for Australia despite trade strains

Almond production is booming now with around 123,000 tonnes expected to be harvested in Australia this year — the largest on record.

With 80 per cent of the world’s almond coming from California, Australian almonds are proving their place in the market. With every tonne of almonds sold in Australia, three tonnes are exported to around 50 countries.

Second expansion phase boosting yields

Chief executive of Almond Board Australia, Ross Skinner, said the projected 10 per cent increase in harvest this year was due to the second wave of expansion from plantings in 2016.

“[The record harvest] is mainly based on the increased planting coming into production,” Mr Skinner said.

“We’ve increased our planting over the past five years, and those trees are starting to mature into much larger trees and bearing much more crop.”

With the harvest due to start any week now, Mr Skinner said the mechanical process of producing almonds, as well as the demand for the product at home and overseas, had meant the industry had avoided major hurdles that were currently facing other horticultural industry from COVID-19 movement restrictions.

The increase in almond production stems from increased planting of trees in 2016.(ABC News: Isabel Dayman)

Export markets staying strong

The fallout with China that resulted in heavy tariffs on barley and wine is not something that is expected to be a concern for almonds.

“Much of the 2020 crop was pre-sold before the issue with trade relations with China emerged so we were confident that those contracts would be honoured and that has been the case,” Mr Skinner said.

“All indicators show that the relationship will remain strong, and we have been fortunate that we have alternate markets if things turn sour, but at this stage, things look promising.”

And as for labour shortages putting stress on industries like stone fruit, where the strain is causing some farmers to walk away altogether, the mechanics of almond process means less reliance on hands-on labour.

“We will have an extra 1,000 seasonal workers during the harvest season, and most of our producers had organised that labour already,” Mr Skinner said.

“Being a highly mechanised industry means our harvest requirements aren’t as high as the other horticultural industry, so we are well placed when it comes to labour.”

Sales to the second biggest market, India, have increased to 38 per cent compared to last year and the Middle East and European markets are up 16 and 17 per cent, respectively.

“There’s been strong growth in the export market, which is what we’ve needed because we’ve been growing more and more,” Mr Skinner said.