April 20, 2023 Grace Diaz

Almonds more profitable than walnuts?

For the current campaign, the Chilean Almond Producers Association estimates a production of 14,142 tons of Chilean almonds, with an increase of 14.3% due to the incorporation of new hectares that entered production this year.

In addition, it is projected that production per hectare will reach 1,669 tons by 2033, showing an increase of 11.7%.

Related news: Chilean walnuts project a 2.1% growth in production
Sebastián Valdés, president of the Chilean Almond Producers Association (Chile Almonds), spoke with Portalfruticola.com, indicating that “in terms of surface area, it is a species that has remained relatively stable in recent years, and that is because in the last four years we have had average profitability. Good almond producers have maintained their hectares.”

Valdés noted that from an agronomic point of view, producers in the northern region have had to face the challenge of drought, but given the rains last year, this has allowed for better production in the north of Chile. “We see an increase of more than 30% in production per hectare in Coquimbo, and that is due to less water scarcity. In the central southern region, frost episodes have affected the crop, but water has also been an issue.”

The increase in production, according to the president of Chile Almonds, can also be attributed to better flowering, due to good temperatures during that period, which has led to better yields.

One point to highlight about the crop is that it is mechanizable, so it has not been affected by labor issues. Valdés pointed out that almond trees have a water requirement of approximately 7,000 cubic meters per hectare, “so there has been a lot of investment in reservoirs to store water and increased use of precision irrigation.”

Almonds in the markets
Currently, Chile produces less than 1% of the global production and export of almonds. Therefore, in Valdés’ view, the challenge is to sell the product in the best possible way and find those customers who value quality above all else.

He indicated that currently, 60% of national production is destined for Russia, Argentina, Ecuador, and Brazil. “And this year we started shipping 200 tons to Germany.”

He mentioned that they are working on those markets that have customers willing to pay a price differential for Chilean almonds. “Because our almonds are better than American ones. Because our differential is that our almonds are processed with less damage, so the quality of our fruit is better.”

In this regard, he emphasized that Chilean almonds are currently being paid 1 dollar more than American almonds due to their caliber. Sebastián Valdés specified, “I had not seen that difference before; a significant difference is being paid for Chilean almonds versus Californian almonds.”

Moreover, he noted that as an industry, they are working on standardizing the quality of Chilean almonds, processing methods, food safety standards, and sector formalization.

He highlighted that the Chilean product is recognized for being “clean in terms of damage, and we are trying to make our product less industrial and more of a snack, because that’s where it’s most highly valued. It is a product with excellent color and flavor, good crunchiness, and highly sought after, which is why it is more expensive.”

Projection towards the future
For the president of the Chilean Almond Producers Association, there is potential for growth, “but there are limited places, because in the southern region we have problems with frost and need later flowering. Climate change has been helping from that point of view, so we have had better temperatures, but in general, the areas where we can grow almond trees are not very large.”

Sebastián Valdés said, “we do not see significant growth in almonds; it is likely that if it grows, it will be among those producers who abandon walnut trees because it looks more complicated, and growth in hectares may come from there.”

In this regard, he argued that walnuts are much more damaged than almonds, and the future seems to be challenging. “Today, almonds are in a better position than walnuts. The lands suitable for almonds compete with walnuts, but they also compete with other attractive fruits such as cherries, citrus, avocados, and in some way, the ideal climate for almonds is also ideal for other species that have been more profitable.”

Fuente: Portalfruticola.com y Chilenut