Australian Almond Pollination
Australian Almonds Need Bee-Love to Survive
One could make a hefty list of the crops that would disappear if the bees of the world died out. There would be no apples to keep the doctor away, no avocados for Melbournian brunches, pumpkins for halloween or blueberries for our pancakes. Rated right up there amongst these popular crops are almonds. Almonds, however, are a special case, as they are 100% reliant on bees for their pollination. While almost all of the almond flowers on a tree can grow into nutlets (the first stage of the nut’s development), none can fully develop if the bees don’t pay a visit. And it’s a mutual love affair: just as almond trees need cross-pollination and bees move pollen from tree to tree, almond crops are highly nutritious for bee species, making them strong and healthy.
And it is without doubt that the US dominates the almond industry. California is said to produce a whopping 80 percent of the world’s almond supply, which requires about half of the honeybee population in the United States for pollination each year! This Californian almond export crop is valued at a huge $3 billion, and is sent all over the world, predominantly to Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
In Australia, the small yet thriving industry is based predominantly in South Australia, north-western Victoria and southern New South Wales. In these areas, there are several almond varieties grown and exported, the most popular being Nonpareil, Carmel and Price. These are sold in a range of forms, including in-shell, raw kernel, roasted and blanched products, and while Australia only produces less than 1% of the world’s almond production, our exports of generally of a very high quality. This has led to Australian almonds being exported to 46 countries, with India being the most valuable export destination. According to the Australian Almond Board, the current almond crop expansion will increase the country’s productive capacity to 150,000 tonnes, with associated exports of 120,000 tonnes bringing in approximately $1 billion of revenue!
The expansion of the almond industry has many benefits. In one key example, it will benefit river communities who have been impacted by the Murray Darling Basin Plan. Almond crops are concentrated along the Murray Valley in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales; this is a good environment for these trees, which require deep, well-drained soils, mild winters and dry summers. The Murray Basin Plan limits precious water resources and directs them to industries that bring in the most value. As almonds are a highly valuable crop in Australia, the almond producing regions in this basin area receive the benefits of capital from the Plan to set up these orchards, as well as the revenue generated from the crops yield.
Almonds, therefore, are good for our pockets as well as our tummies! Just another reason to remember to buy organic produce, boycott chemical treatments of crops, support local farmers and host a hive: the more love we give our bees, the more almonds they give us in return.