Almond hulls – Low prices call for expanded markets

The continued lack of overall profitability in the California dairy industry continues to impact the almond sector – just ask a huller-sheller or grower.

The almond hull industry is struggling to attain higher prices for its byproduct fed to livestock, mostly in milk cow rations. Prices for almond hulls have been basement bound for the last year and a half in the $60 per ton range.

Prices about five years ago were about double in the $120/ton to $130/ton range. Efforts are underway to nudge prices higher.

“There are bids at $80 to $90 FOB but there have been few takers,” says Mike Kelley, president and chief executive officer of the Central California Almond Growers Association (CCAGA) based at Kerman.

Texas bound

Almond hulls are usually sold to California dairies due to the proximity of huller-sheller facilities to nearby dairy farms and lower local transportation costs.

Yet due to ongoing lower hull demand and prices, CCAGA continues to look beyond its traditional sales territory to find customers and higher prices elsewhere.

Last fall, CCAGA partnered with the Penny Newman Grain Company to transport 90 railcars filled with prime California almond hulls from Fresno to the Texas Panhandle at Levelland.

Kelley says producer milk prices are higher in Texas so some dairymen will pay a higher price for almond hulls, including the extra transportation costs for the multi-state trip by rail.

“This sale was huge,” Kelley said. “There are a lot of dairymen who have moved to the Panhandle who want almonds hulls, or have heard of the value of this product in the dairy ration.”

He added, “With the current hull price point we can ship it there. They are under a different milk (price) marketing order so it worked out great. We’d like sell more.”

CCAGA is the largest almond huller-sheller in the world with four operations in the central San Joaquin Valley. The co-op has a single huller-sheller plant at Sanger plus three plants at Kerman, all in Fresno County.

CCAGA’s processing capacity is higher than the entire combined almond industry in Spain, notes Kelley, and close to Australia’s total almond processing capacity.

Arizona shipment

Kelley is also shipping almond hulls to central Arizona where, for example, a dairyman is mixing the hulls with ensilage to ferment and moisten the hulls for dairy feed.

For the CCAGA agricultural service cooperative, California almond hulls are traditionally trucked to…

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