US. almond growers are poised to benefit of an expanding global demand, according to a podcast produced for New York-based Rabobank.

Among the factors contributing to the positive outlook are marketing, additional supply and last year's low value of the U.S. dollar, says

Rabobank Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory Vice President Marieke de Rijke.

“Exports have grown significantly in recent years,” de Rijke says. “We have seen a huge increase in demand due to the efforts of marketing organizations. They have focused on promoting the health benefits of almonds, and have communicated this all over the world. So, not only in the U.S., but in many foreign countries demand for almonds has grown.”

As consumption levels and grower prices grew, so did the production volume.

more than 250,000 acres of almonds have been planted in California, the nation's leading almond-producing state by far.

“Despite the economic downturn and the recent appreciation of the U.S. dollar, export levels have remained high,” de Rijke says. “In 2008 however, production volume was so high that export growth was not enough to offset increased production levels. So, we’re now seeing higher inventory levels than we have in the past.”

In addition to a large carryover, California's 3-year-old drought is affecting almond supplies. Many growers along the state's Westside west of Fresno have seen federal and state surface water deliveries reduced by up to 85 percent this year.

Because the trees are developing fruiting buds for the 2010 season this year, next year's yields also may be affected even if water deliveries return to normal.

In the longer term, exports are likely to grow as more become consumers aware of the nut's health benefits, she says.

China, India and Russia are expected to drive much of the consumption growth. For example, 80 percent of India’s population is vegetarian and are increasingly using almonds as a protein source.

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