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Chinas move impacts Manteca, Ripon almonds
South County almond growers produced 72,700 tons of almonds in 2016 valued at $348 million. - photo by Bulletin file photo

The trade war has come to the orchards of Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon.

China on Sunday imposed a 15 percent tariff on almonds as well as 127 other exports from the United States — virtually all agricultural products — in response to American tariffs placed on Chinese steel and aluminum. The 128 items being slapped with additional duties represent $3 billion in annual American exports to China.

China this year was expected to become the No. 1 buyer of California grown almonds. California is the only state with suitable climate in the United States to grow almonds. The state by itself accounts for close to 82 percent of the world’s almond production. Of that amount, 71 percent is exported to other countries.

California almond growers have been working hard to increase sales in China. Exports of almonds from the Central Valley to China were at 133 million pounds, up from 10 million pounds 5 years ago. California growers in recent years have sold 75 percent of the almonds consumed in China.

Chinese imports of American fresh fruit and nuts have surged in recent years due to its rapidly growing middle class that has spawned health-conscious consumers.

State farmers grew 2.25 billion pounds of almonds in 2016.

As of 2016 the California Department of Food and Agriculture reported there were 827,953 acres in California planted in almonds. The top six counties are Kern, 148,958 acres, Fresno, 129,826 acres; Stanislaus, 116,349 acres; Merced, 109,606 acres; Madera, 95,029 acres; and San Joaquin 71,100 acres. All of San Joaquin County’s almond production takes place in the orchards around Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon.

Of San Joaquin County’s overall $2.3 billion farm production in 2016, almonds were at the No. 3 spot at $348 million. Wine grapes top the list at $425 million making San Joaquin County the most productive county in the country for wine. Milk was second at $425 million. The county’s fourth largest crop is walnuts at $274 million.

The tariffs imposed by China target farm regions, areas where many voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

American farmers exported almost $20 billion of agricultural products to China in 2017. Topping the list was the pork industry with $1.1 billion in exports. China is the No. 3 market for American pork.

The trade war could soon involve the Silicon Valley. Trump has ordered American trade officials to challenge Chinese technology licensing before the World Trade Organization. Trump gas indicated he may impose an import tariff of 25 percent on aerospace, machinery and communications equipment such as cell phones.

Trump administration officials have identified as potential targets 1,300 product lines worth about $48 billion.  

Beijing reported a trade surplus of $275.8 billion with the United States last year, or two-thirds of its global total. Washington listed different figures that put the gap at a record $375.2 billion.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email