Courtesy of Blake Rhodes for Ketchum

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s (NASS) official walnut industry crop estimate provides the California walnut industry with crucial information to support an orderly sales process. Using scientific methodologies, USDA field staff counted, measured, weighed and evaluated thousands of walnuts from major growing regions in July and August for use in a statistical acreage model to establish the annual walnut crop estimate.

The 2023 California walnut production is forecast at 790,000 tons, up 5% from 2022’s production of 752,000 tons. The forecast is based on 385,000 bearing acres, down 4% from 2022’s estimated bearing acreage of 400,000.

“The California walnut industry has increased its focus on providing handlers and growers the most accurate crop information by accelerating the collection of various data points,” said Robert Verloop, CEO and Executive Director for the California Walnut Commission (CWC) and Board (CWB).

While official final shipment, inventory and close-out figures for the 2022 crop year will be released within the month, preliminary figures indicate last year’s crop is virtually sold out.

“Last year, we were facing a completely different scenario with 130,000 tons in inventory brought on by the lingering effects of the COVID-impacted global marketplace and a record heat wave last September that negatively impacted the entire crop, which led to lethargic sales and record-low grower returns,” added Verloop.

“With minimal carryover from the previous crop year and favorable weather throughout the growing season, we’re optimistic about the new crop year,” said Tim Sabado, CEO of Prima Noce, based in Linden, California. “The upcoming crop promises a return to the exceptional quality that defines California walnuts globally.

“Harvest will begin in September, and may extend into November due to the early season cooler temperatures,” added Sabado. “Our focus is on an aggressive harvest, picking the crop at its peak quality and freshness.”

Inshell walnut shipments for international destinations will start in October. In the U.S. and Canada, retail customers are currently placing orders and building sales plans for their traditionally large holiday promotions and their health-focused kernel campaigns for January and February.