Yesterday, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service California Field Office released the annual crop estimate for walnuts, predicting the annual yield to be 495,000 short tons.

"We enjoyed a warm, dry spring which will allow us to harvest up to a week earlier than the 2012 crop, and we are expecting good quality, plentiful walnuts for our customers around the world," states California Walnut Commission Chairman Donald Norene. The 2013 estimate is less than 1% shy of last year's crop of 497,000 short tons.

Walnut production has been increasing, with more than 11,000 new walnut acres planted this year, contributing to a crop that has nearly doubled in the last decade. "Domestic market development and continued expansion of export markets will be critical to future production gains. New emerging markets, such as India, will play a vital role in developing the industry's future consumers," Norene added. In July, market access was granted allowing California walnuts to be shipped to India. 

"Global demand for walnuts remains at an all time high because consumer awareness of the versatility and nutritional benefits of walnuts continues to grow," says Dennis A. Balint, CWC CEO. "With over 100 published health research papers, people are increasingly aware of the many health benefits walnuts provide." In fact, the number of consumers eating walnuts to improve their health has doubled in the past five years. Additionally, walnuts are the only nut that contain a significant amount (2.5 grams per oz) of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based form of omega-3 fatty acid, and also contain fiber (2g) and protein (4g).

"As the fourth leading export from the state of California, we estimate the value of walnuts may top $1.5billion in farm gate revenue," says Dennis A. Balint. In year to date shipments, the US accounted for 36% of shipments while 64% of the crop was exported to countries on five continents.  California walnuts account for more than 99% of the commercial US supply and control roughly three-fourths of world trade.