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BLUE DIAMOND

A can a week is all they ask

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BLUE DIAMOND

Massive storage tanks hold the nearly seven million pounds of almonds a day that are arriving at the Blue Diamond processing facility in Modesto. Eventually the contents will be sorted, packaged an...

JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin


POSTED September 14, 2012 7:15 p.m.

MODESTO – At any given time more than 100 trucks are crisscrossing Northern California on their way back to the Blue Diamond processing facility in Modesto.

Their haul? Almonds. Lots and lots of almonds.

About 7 million pounds of California Almonds – an actual classification – are hauled in every day as farmers from Bakersfield to Red Bluff complete an eight-month growing cycle to turn in one of the biggest cash crops in the State.

And things at the plant going full-steam ahead.

“Right now we’re working around the clock as the trucks are coming in,” said Dave Baker, Blue Diamond’s Director of Member Relations. “We’re back to normal on our crop harvest and we started receiving on the 13th of this year as opposed to the 22nd of the last two preceding years.

“We’re up to about 7 million pounds a day and we’re on target for our daily receiving, and while the amount varies a little bit day-to-day, that’s about the average that we see coming in.”

Nonpareil almonds will be the next to come in – slightly lowering the average predicted daily haul down to 5.5 to 6 million pounds.

All of the almonds are put into bulk storage tanks and processed when they’re needed.

The company – the world’s largest almond processing and distributing company – has over 3,000 partner growers throughout California that tackle all varieties and help supply the growing demand for almonds throughout the United States and the world.

According to Baker, a growing middle class in places like China, India and the Middle East has boosted the demand for higher-quality and nutrition-dense foods like almonds, thus increasing the exports every year.

But the overall majority of those grown are consumed right here at home.

“One of the brightest points is the growing domestic market that we have here now,” he said. “China is coming on strong and so are other countries, but with some of the research that has been done on behalf of the Almond Growers Board that shows the nutritional value and the attributes it has really made a difference.”

Not everything, however, has been positive for the overall crop yield.

Baker says that an early August heat wave had a drying effect on the kernels, which has led to one of the driest kernel crops in history.

Because the overall production of nonpareil almonds was one of the highest every recorded last year, he said that somewhat of a letdown was expected this year.

But with a lack of rain throughout the season that growers normally get, production levels are somewhat down when compared to the routine.

“We didn’t get that deep ground water that we normally have available for the trees to draw from,” Baker said. “You top that off with the unbelievable heat wave throughout the state in early August that affected the kernels, and you can see why production is significantly down when compared to where it was last year.

“The National Agricultural Statistic Service comes out with a forecast each year an objective estimate and they predicted 2.1 billion pound which is more than last year’s crop. Right now we’re coming in significantly less than that – probably in the neighborhood of 20 percent.”

Regardless of the numbers, almonds remain one of California’s biggest agricultural exports and play a significant role in the Central Valley’s rural makeup.

“It’s a big part of what California produces,” Baker said. “It’s something that we supply for the rest of the country and the world.”

‑ JASON CAMPBELL

209 staff reporter

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