USDA Foreign Ag Service — If you committed to eating healthier this new year, chances are you are not alone. New year resolutions focused on living a healthy lifestyle are some of the most common resolutions made throughout the world. Thankfully sticking to that new year resolution in 2024 just got easier for international consumers, thanks to increased exporting opportunities for U.S. almonds to Europe and Asia.
U.S. almonds are a nutrient-rich food, packed with protein, fiber, vitamin E, calcium, copper, magnesium and riboflavin. All commercially produced almonds in the United States are grown in California, which is home to more than 7,000 almond growers and processors.
The popular tree nut, considered a specialty crop in the agricultural industry, is the State’s leading agricultural export. In 2022, U.S. almond exports to the world totaled $4.5 billion. This tree nut is also heavily rooted in many family trees, as almond farming is a “family-driven” agricultural industry in California.
“About 90 percent of almonds are grown by family operations, many of which are multigenerational,” explained Julie Adams, Vice President of Global Technical and Regulatory Affairs for the Almond Board of California, in a recent conversation. “Communities throughout the Central Valley depend on ag in general, and almonds in particular to contribute to their overall economic wellbeing.”
For these family operations in California, overseas markets have become a critical component to their success and bottom line. An astounding two-thirds of California’s almonds are exported. So no matter how you crack it, almond exports are a crucial portion of revenue for California producers, “and keeping strong and diverse market opportunities is essential to long-term profitability,” said Adams. Especially, “in the Central Valley, where many communities have been suffering the economic effects of increasing crop input costs and lower returns.”
This is where USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) comes into play for almond exporters and the Almond Board of California. FAS – with its network of offices and attachés around the world – helps open and expand markets for U.S. agricultural exports. For example, just recently FAS identified fresh market opportunities in Italy and Bulgaria. Through its close partnerships with U.S. cooperators, including the Almond Board of California, and foreign buyers, California almond exports to Italy and Bulgaria in 2024 are expected to grow by millions of dollars.
India is another almond market with exciting growth opportunities. Last year, India removed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. almonds and other products. The impact of removing that trade barrier is already being seen in the export market, and the value of U.S. almond exports to India is expected to reach $1 billion in 2024.
“India is our number one export market,” noted Adams. “It has grown significantly because of our long-term commitment, promotions, and ongoing relationships with customers and consumers. Almonds are unique, in that they are an integral part of India’s history and culture – we’ve leveraged that tradition in our marketing efforts and supported it through investing in nutrition research in India.”
These opportunities for market growth are some of the bright spots that FAS has identified for 2024 as the agency works to advance USDA’s goals for diversifying and enhancing international markets for American farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses, and exporters.
USDA also recognizes that for agribusinesses, especially small businesses, entering the export market can be a tough nut to crack. That is why FAS works closely with state and regional agricultural trade groups to help U.S. agribusiness owners grow their company’s revenue through exporting. One way of doing this is through USDA’s market development programs, like the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program and Market Access Program (MAP). FAS just announced MAP and FMD funding allocations for FY24, which will have an immediate impact on helping expand U.S. exports to markets across the globe.