Ag Today, March 19, 2018

Harvard’s Nutty Idea: Cracking Into the Almond Market

Large investors head Down Under to invest in established orchards and plant new trees

By Lucy Craymer- The Wall Street Journal
Updated March 18, 2018 10:17 p.m. ET

In the Australian state of New South Wales, Harvard University is developing around 1,480 acres of former potato fields and other farmland, building a new dam and planting trees that will take about three years to bear their first edible crops.

It is part of a growing bet on almonds by the college’s endowment, which is adding to around 1,235 acres of almond plantations it already owns near a township called Hillston. Hundreds of miles away, Harvard is trying to sell an Australian sugar-cane plantation that it bought in 2016 and recently disposed of a dairy farm in New Zealand.

Almonds are shaping up to be a more lucrative endeavor for pension funds, endowments and other institutions with very long-term investment horizons. Global production of the oval-shaped tree nut is forecast to hit a record 1.3 million metric tons this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Around 80% of the world’s almonds are currently produced in California, whose almond plantations in its Central Valley have generated strong returns for investors for many years. Volatile weather in recent months, including frost and storms, have hurt estimates for the state’s almond harvest this summer, helping to push wholesale export prices for U.S. almonds to near a two-year high of $6,807 a metric ton.

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