Monday, 19 March 2012

march 17 - California

Today started with a meeting at the Westland Water District head office.Had a power point presentation by C.E.O. on water supply issues affecting the San Joaquin Valley(California). I found this session really interesting and concluded that there are very similar pressures on this water resource as with our own Murray\Darling River system. Some of the main issues surrounding the San Joaquin water resource include: uncertainty on long-term water allocations for irrigators, over extraction in some districts - more so with the underground water extraction which is still unmetered, increasing demand from urban usage and huge environmental pressure to share more of this water resource to keep a healthy environment. In fact there are 2 native fish populations which have been in steep decline over the last few years. The environmental argument is that over-extraction is the cause and then the irrigation lobby groups are suggesting a range of other causes for the decrease in fish numbers.This is currently being fought out in the courts but irrigators are bracing for further water allocation restrictions.
The affects of further water allocation restritions within the San Joaquin Valley will have a knock on effect around the world. This food producing district is amazingly huge. It is known as the food basket of the world as it feeds the USA and beyond. Any regulation introduced which causes a decrease in food production may push the price of food up and effect global food security. This will be interesting to follow.
We then had a discussion with Harris Woolf California Almonds. As we have been driving around the huge irrigated districts we have noticed massive Almond plantations - both of mature trees but also lots of newly planted patches. My first impression was that this large growth is possibly going to result in an over-supply of almonds. It was interesting to hear from the almond sales division on their outlook. The USA produce 75% of world supply of almonds. This year their sales volume is expected to be in excess of 2 billion pounds of almond product (that's 900,000,000 metric tonne). Demand for product has been increasing by 7-13% every year and the price of almonds is very favourable against competing nuts like cashews, walnuts, pecans etc. So there is a lot optimism about the future of the Almond industry.

In the afternoon we visited a very large beef feed lot. It has the capacity of 120,000 head. All the beef produced is processed by the same company .100% of the product in sold branded and supplied to the restaurant trade in the USA. Approx. 10% is exported. This feed lot is very professional and employs 200 locals.

Heading back to town we drove past a solar power farm which had 100 acres of solar panels.

Spent the night at same motel in Fresno.

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