Who knew? Almonds are now Australia's most valuable horticultural export.
Export sales of almonds hit $522 million last financial year, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) data.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said the bumper almond crop was great news for Australian growers, exporters and the horticultural industry as a whole.
"According to the latest Almond Insights report by the Almond Board of Australia, the industry is forecast to go from strength to strength,” Mr Joyce said.
“Next year's exports will reach $600 million, largely due to the 2015 crop being 10,000 tonnes larger than that of 2014, and continued strong demand and prices."
And according to the latest USDA data global demand for almonds remains strong.
Total world consumption for shelled almonds is now over one million tonnes a year with two-thirds supplied through trade.
"The growth in this industry means we can expect to continue to see the expansion of orchards across the country, which will mean more jobs, more export sales, and increased farmgate returns for growers in this valuable industry," said Mr Joyce.
Massive expansion phase
Under the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA), import tariffs of 10 to 24 per cent currently faced by Australian almond producers will be eliminated over four years.
The industry has already entered a massive expansion phase with winter planting forecast to increase the orchard area by 50 per cent to 43,000 hectares planted in the Murray Valley region in NSW and Victoria.
Mr Joyce said according to Almond Insights, investment in new orchards and processing facilities would inject $400 million into the Murray Valley region, and would lead to further economic benefits for growing regions across Australia.
"In addition to the great news for export markets, domestic sales are also up, as people continue to realise the health benefits of eating almonds in the prevention of heart disease, diabetes and other health problems," Mr Joyce said.
"There is also research being undertaken in Australia to confirm work done overseas on the benefits of almonds to cognitive recognition in dementia sufferers."
For more information: www.australianalmonds.com.au.