Jonathan Hoff, right, the CEO of Monte Vista Farming Company, says sustainability can give California almonds a leg up in world markets.
Every year Monte Vista, the almond farming, packing, and shipping company that Jonathan Hoff runs, processes between 45 and 50 million pounds of almonds from about 28 different growers.
About 80% of the company’s customers are exports to foreign markets, and its almonds are eaten by customers on six continents.
Hoff, a third-generation almond grower, is an outspoken advocate of almond industry sustainability practices and certification--for business reasons, because it’s what consumers want.
“With respect to global demand for almonds we’re not only competing with other origins, we’re competing with other nuts,” Hoff said in an interview. “If sustainability sells, and almonds have that part of the story pegged, compared with other nuts that are competing for space in a retail bag, then hopefully we’ll get the nod versus other nuts.”
“That’ll be huge as we get larger and larger crops going forward.”
California almond production will likely increase of about 30% in five years time, according to the Almond Board.
That means by 2021, about 3 billion pounds of almonds could be produced in California.
Production forecasts from Almond Board’s 2017 State of the Industry presentation (link)
Why do buyers care about sustainability practices? Hoff points to an example of Walmart, which got bad press from an L.A. Times investigation of Mexican labor practices.
“Part of this is driven by the marketing department, they want to sell this story to consumers, but then part of it is driven by the legal department,” Hoff said.
In his view, nuts that compete with almonds, like cashews from North Africa or India, may not be able to match transparent socially responsible and sustainable practices almonds can offer.
A positive development for the industry in this area, Hoff says, is that the Almond Board’s sustainability program, called the California Almond Sustainability Program, CASP, got a gold certification from an international authority.
“Growers who have been working with us for years see that the value is demonstrated,” Hoff said. “Now that CASP is benchmarked as this gold standard, we’re going to push our growers to fill out the modules and stay up to date.”
Monte Vista will lend a helping hand with compliance--the company is currently putting together seminars for growers.
“Trust me, I’m no fan of regulation, and I don’t want additional regulation, it’s a struggle,” Hoff said. “But if we can leverage what we already have over other origins…it’s an opportunity to strengthen existing markets, open new markets, and set the industry apart.”
Resources for growers are available on the Almond Board’s CASP website, including tools to calculate the ideal time and amount of nitrogen and water to apply.
Want to learn more about the California Almond Sustainability Program? Contact CASP@sureharvest.com.