FRESNO -- California almond growers expect this year to produce another limb-breaking crop at 2.1 billion pounds, up 3 percent from last year. But industry officials aren't stressed about a glut of nuts -- their only worry may be not having enough.
Over the past several years, the world has gone nutty for California almonds, as consumers gobble up all the state produces. More than 70 percent of the state's crop is exported.
And despite concerns from some growers about overproducing, the sellers of California almonds aren't flinching at the huge crop estimated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"Our only concern is on the supply side, we want to make sure we can keep up with demand," said Richard Waycott, president and chief executive officer of the Modesto-based Almond Board of California.
"We have had such incredible growth in virtually all of our markets around the world."
Exports to China, South Korea and the Middle East grew by double digits from August 2011 to May 2012.
Overall, exports during that period were up 18 percent over the same period last year, with China and Hong Kong the largest export markets.
Helping to fuel California almond sales are stacks of research showing almonds are a healthy snack. Also a factor is the emerging middle class in countries such as China and Russia.
"These are foods that the average consumer did not have before," Waycott said. "And now that they can afford it, they are relishing the ability to buy them."
Having already made inroads in several major worldwide markets, the Almond Board is not resting on its laurels. This August, the board is setting its sights on untapped markets, including Brazil.