top of page

The Nut Business

Overview of Almond Nut Farm

Almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts. Take your pick; producers are struggling with all of them these days. The bottom line is this: the 21st century has not been kind to the industry, according to USDA data. And that leaves some landowners with questions about whether they still have a viable path forward with tree nuts.

This is the sentence in a recent USDA report that sums up the trouble: “In 2022, tree nut prices fell to their lowest levels in at least two decades.”

Industries across most sectors (all sectors?) have dealt with higher rates of inflation, increased input costs, supply chain challenges and consumer behavior disruptions since COVID-19 struck the United States.

But segments of the nut industry have suffered more than many.

Historic Nut Pricing 2000-2022

RELATED: You can find additional USDA charts on nuts’ performance here.

Almonds suffered the steepest fall in terms of dollars per pound after peaking in 2014. Hazelnuts bounced up and down since 2000 but have now retreated to price levels from around the turn of this century. Walnuts briefly surpassed hazelnuts in 2011 and remained higher for three years. But they’ve since plummeted to a record low.

RELATED: New York Tree Crops Alliance works to expand hazelnut industry in the region. Read Lancaster Farming’s report here.

The USDA report on walnuts’ recent downfall included this:

“Prior to 2020, the lowest real walnut price recorded was $0.58 per pound in 1999. In 2022, walnut prices were less than half of the previous record low and 14 percent of the high observed in 2013 ($1.82 per pound). Low prices have affected walnut producers’ production decisions. In September 2023, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service forecast that 2023 would be the first year since 1999 that walnut-bearing acreage decreased. Acreage in California, the country’s leading walnut producer, was estimated to have dropped from 400,000 acres in 2022 to 385,000 acres in 2023 and was revised further downward to 375,000 acres in October 2023. Producers have not reduced bearing acreage for almonds or hazelnuts, but prices have decreased since 2014. The decision to reduce acreage stems not only from grower prices but also from a series of conditions growers face that include weather, prices of inputs, and competition from other exporting countries.”

But reducing acreage hasn’t been enough to push prices back up. Production has increased on that reduced acreage. The USDA report found that:

“Despite the forecast reduction in acreage, walnut production is expected to increase by 5 percent, tying the record-breaking 790,000 tons produced in 2020. High levels of production can be attributed to increases in the average number of trees per bearing acre (which has increased steadily over time and is up another 1.5 percent from 2022) and favorable weather. Cool winter temperatures and a wet spring contributed to a 9 percent increase in yields, from 1.88 tons/acre in 2022 to 2.05 tons per acre in 2023.”

Production in China impacts potential markets for U.S. produced nuts. So do trade tariffs imposed by the United States. Here is a breakdown by Pacific Nut Producer.

Food & Wine offers a perspective that some landowners made the decision to increase U.S. nut production because of consumers’ demands for healthier options. That created what the article described as the “nut glut,” as producers committed to up supplies to meet anticipated consumers’ demand for Paleo diets and a preference for almond milk. The article came out in 2020 but lays out one aspect of what created an oversupply in the U.S. Read that here.

RELATED: Here is the full USDA report on the state of the nut industry, which provides a deeper explanation for what is happening. Read the USDA’s Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook here.


American Farmland Owner Hayfields mountains


Subscribe to Where Landowners Get Their News® and be the first aware of agricultural insights, analysis, and in-depth interviews.


Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page