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Almond Bumper Crop Defies Ag Economics

Almond growers in the state´s central valley are turning a bumper crop of nuts into a bumper crop of cash.

Last fall´s record harvest of 1.1 billion pounds of almonds is selling at 20 percent more per pound than the 2001 harvest. That would seem to defy agricultural economics. Bumper crops usually bring a drop in prices.

Prices for California grapes have been hurt by an overabundant harvest. Garlic, raisin and apricot prices have suffered from competition from overseas farmers.

But the Los Angeles Times reports today that almonds are more profitable partly thanks to the hardball negotiating tactics of the Blue Diamond cooperative. More than half of the state´s 7,000 almond farmers bargain collectively for prices through the group.

Last year, Blue Diamond chief executive Doug Youngdahl argued that lower prices could force some growers out of the business, leading to higher prices in future years. Youngdahl also threatened to hold almonds off the market if buyers didn´t agree to pay more. Growers have also increased productivity, opened up new markets and boosted consumption. California now supplies 80 percent of the world´s supply of almonds.