CATCH THE BUZZ – Wonderful Orchards Slashes Almond Production

Wonderful Orchards Slashes Almond Production - BUZZ

By Mike Hornick, The Packer

Citing the state’s drought and unfavorable business conditions, Wonderful Orchards — previously known as Paramount Farms — is removing 10,000 acres of almond trees in California.

“Due to limited water resources and market factors, Wonderful Orchards is reducing its western Kern County almond orchards by 10,000 acres, effective immediately,” Steve Clark, vice president of corporate communications for The Wonderful Co., said Feb. 25.

“We remain committed to our Central Valley farming operations and will continue to look for growth opportunities,” he said.

Wonderful Orchards did not announce plans for the acreage.

Kern County was home to 208,250 acres of almonds in 2014, up from 148,595 the year before, according to county crop reports.

February is bloom time for California almonds.

The decision by Wonderful Orchards comes as the drought picture in California is improving — but not as quickly as state officials want.

On Feb. 24, the California Department of Water Resources increased its water allocation estimate for most recipients to 30% of requests. That’s the second increase on December’s estimate of 10%. It went to 15% in January after storms padded Sierra Nevada snowpack and brought significant rainfall.

The latest increase, though, remains largely based on January totals, and far short of what growers would prefer. February has been “remarkably dry” in California, according to CDWR director Mark Cowin.

“(The) increase, although good news, does not mean the drought is ending,” Cowin said in a news release. “After more than four dry years, we still have a critical water shortage. We need a lot more wet weather this winter to take the edge off drought.”