There May Be an Almond Shortage in the Not-So-Distant Future

Do you look forward to an almond milk latte every morning and a midday snack of almond butter toast? We have some unfortunate news for you: Unusually heavy rains during California’s winter growing season — more than 27 inches, to be exact — have compromised the state’s almond crop. The cruel irony? The crop has been vilified in recent years for using up tons of water in drought-ravaged California, and now they are being destroyed by too much water.

A short lesson on the food chain: Every acre of almond trees in California requires approximately two hives of bees for pollination. According to The Wall Street Journal, the rain prevented honey bees from flying out to pollinate almond trees during their short blooming period. Without bees, there are no almonds, explains agricultural news site AgFax. This is especially problematic because California produces more than 80 percent of the world’s almond supply.

Sunny Verghese, chief executive of Olam International, the world’s largest almond grower, told the WSJ, “Unfortunately I can’t give the bees overtime and ask them to work longer and harder.” Whether they like it or not, farmers are at the mercy of Mother Nature — and that holds true for all farmers. In addition to almonds, record rains over the winter have threatened celery, strawberries and leafy salad greens in California’s Salinas Valley.

So is now the appropriate time to start hoarding jars of almond butter and almond snack packs?

In the next several weeks, almond growers will know just how much of this year’s crop survived the rains. “Beyond that, farmers worry how almonds will cope with a growing divergence between hotter days and colder nights,” reports the WSJ. It looks like there’s no time like the present to stock up on America’s favorite nut.

—Erin Mosbaugh

Erin has made telling stories about food her profession. You can find those stories in Food & Wine, LA Weekly, Serious Eats, KCET, Robb Report and First We Feast.

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