You have permission to edit this article.
Edit

Kern leads in production of California's most lucrative crops

A new report shows Kern leading other counties in production of California's most lucrative crops, including three of the state's top seven agricultural exports.

The California Agricultural Statistics Review 2019-2020, released last week by the state Department of Food and Agriculture, indicates about a fifth of the almonds and grapes, and more than a third of the pistachios, grown in the Golden State originate in Kern.

Each of those crops ranks highly by revenues paid to farmers, with almonds second statewide after dairy, grapes third and pistachios seventh.

The figures suggest growers in Kern have generally succeeded in matching their efforts with market demand, including consumer preferences overseas, as shoppers increasingly turn to healthy snacks and cooking ingredients.

"Growers respond to (demand for healthy nuts and fruit) and they'll forgo doing the row crops and vegetables," Kern Deputy Ag Commissioner Cerise Montanio said, adding that the county's size and good farming conditions have been a big help.

"We have more acreage to farm on," she said. "We have pretty decent conditions in the Central Valley and so we're able to do and diversify in a lot of commodities. So, I think that's what makes Kern County a little bit more unique and diversified than some of the other counties."

Although the state data is the latest available, it reflects results from the 2019 crop year and is therefore more than a year old. Kern County's 2020 crop report is scheduled for release within two weeks. Montanio said the ag commissioner's office is still pulling final numbers for presentation Sept. 28 to the county Board of Supervisors.

By the state's reckoning, Kern ranked second among California counties by total crop value, just behind Fresno County. It may be notable, however, that if not for a quirk in Fresno's accounting, Kern might have come out on top.

The new state report found California ranks No. 1 nationally in production of almonds, grapes and pistachios. Almost all of those U.S. crops were grown in the Golden State.

It said the state's most lucrative agricultural commodity was dairy, which in Kern ranked fifth in 2019. Second statewide were almonds (No. 1 in Kern), followed by grapes (No. 2 in Kern). Pistachios placed seventh statewide but fourth in Kern, after citrus.

By export value in 2019, almonds placed first statewide at $4.9 billion, up 8 percent from 2018. Pistachios came in second at $2 billion (up 16 percent) and dairy was third at $1.8 billion (up almost 12 percent). Table grapes ranked seventh by total export value, down more than 7 percent from 2018 totals.

The report also highlights the top markets for California exports: The European Union imported the most, at $3.7 billion, led by almonds, pistachios and walnuts. Canada was next at $3.2 billion, with wine, almonds and strawberries its most popular California imports. Third were China and Hong Kong at $1.9 billion, led by pistachios, almonds and dairy products.

Overall, California agricultural output in the 2019-20 crop year came to more than $50 billion in cash, slightly more than the previous year's output.

Market prices, of course, figure into the state's crop rankings. The report noted dairy prices were up 15 percent year over year at $18.11 per hundredweight, and that in 2019 California's dairy output made up about a fifth of the nation's supply of dairy that year.

Almond prices, it noted, were down 3 percent at $2.43 per pound during a year the nut's bearing acreage in California increased by 90,000.

It noted grape production was off 9 percent from the year before, while that year's pistachio harvest declined fully a quarter from the 2018-19 crop year.

Coronavirus Cases widget

  • Positive Cases Among Kern Residents: 156,517

  • Deaths: 1,781

  • Recovered and Presumed Recovered Residents: 147,668

  • Percentage of all cases that are unvaccinated: 92.72

  • Percentage of all hospitalizations that are unvaccinated: 93.17