APICS is the premier professional association for supply chain management.

The Risks of Almond Growing

by APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE |   2014 | 0 | 0

People are eating a lot of almonds, and California is providing 80 percent of the world’s yield. In fact, the US Department of Agriculture estimates that California farmers are on track to harvest a record 2.1 billion pounds of almonds this year. That’s not all good news, according to this week’s Mother Jones.

While almonds provide a good income for farmers, California is in the midst of its worst drought ever recorded. And, Mother Jones reports that it takes 1.1 gallons of water to produce just one almond. “You don’t have to scramble to figure how many almonds make up 2.1 billion pounds to realize that that’s a hell of a lot of water,” Tom Philpott writes.

Philpott goes on to explain how farmers get water when rain isn’t providing it—they drill for it. In California, workers for drilling companies are laboring 12 hours a day, seven days a week. And, all signs show that California’s almond crops are continuing to expand in order to meet burgeoning demand from Asia and the United States. This demand keeps prices high and almond farmers investing in expansion.

“The ecological implications are potentially dire,” Philpott writes. “In a huge swath of the almond-intensive San Joaquin Valley, the ground has literally been sinking by an average of 11 inches per year.” A 2013 US Geological Survey assigns blame to the over-pumping of aquifers. Further, the water depletion is making the Sierra Nevada and Coast mountain ranges slowly grow taller, which could trigger earthquakes. Lastly, Mother Jones reports that the managed bees necessary to pollinate the almond crops might be dying off because of insecticides.

It’s not only a matter of the environment, but of supply and demand as well. The water supply in California isn’t increasing; yet, more and more farmers are tapping into the existing aquifers. With California providing half of all US-grown produce, decreasing water levels will directly impact food and economic stability. Philpott writes, “There’s no doubt that something has to give.”

Reducing costs and consequences

Maybe you are not in the agriculture business or maybe you live 5,000 miles away from California. The situation described could still impact you and your business. Consider the following definition of “resource contention” from the APICS Dictionary, 14th edition: “Simultaneous need for a common resource.” Now consider how your organization uses water.

APICS partnered with PwC and released in May “Sustainable Supply Chains: Making Value the Priority.” The report suggests that supply chain managers who seek to manage environmental practices and their impacts on living and nonliving natural systems can better understand supply chain risks and opportunities.

There is a strong case for building sustainable supply chains. The APICS and PwC research revealed that 43 percent of surveyed supply chain and operations management professionals attributed cost reduction to sustainable supply chain initiatives. In addition, 25 percent saw improved customer satisfaction as a result of programs tied to improving supply chain sustainability.

The “Sustainable Supply Chains” report provides proven strategies successful companies use to help create tangible value from sustainability initiatives. The report is free and available on our website.           

All comments will be published pending approval. Read the APICS Comment Policy.


  1. RadEditor - HTML WYSIWYG Editor. MS Word-like content editing experience thanks to a rich set of formatting tools, dropdowns, dialogs, system modules and built-in spell-check.
    RadEditor's components - toolbar, content area, modes and modules
    Toolbar's wrapper 
    Content area wrapper
    RadEditor's bottom area: Design, Html and Preview modes, Statistics module and resize handle.
    It contains RadEditor's Modes/views (HTML, Design and Preview), Statistics and Resizer
    Editor Mode buttonsStatistics moduleEditor resizer
    RadEditor's Modules - special tools used to provide extra information such as Tag Inspector, Real Time HTML Viewer, Tag Properties and other.