“China is the number one producer of walnuts. Five years ago they were a major exporter and competitor of ours. Today they are importing from us,” Vicki Lapera, VP of Sales & Logistics for Crain Walnut Shelling was explaining to me the changes that have occurred in the walnut market. Crain is the largest independent walnut producer in the world, following only Diamond Walnut which switched from being a coop into a stock company recently.
She went on, “And we’ve seen a dramatic increase in prices in the past several years. One of our standard products was $2.35/pound last year but is up to $4.50/pound now. We lost about 50% of our production when we had too much heat during the bloom.”
Chuck Crain, 50, started his company in 1982 seeing an opportunity in a switch from in-shell sales to more value added shelled products. His father and brother still run the family owned CR Crain In-Shell.
Crain exports to over 25 countries with the most important being: Germany, Canada, Israel, Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Spain and Italy. All of that from Red Bluff.
One final interesting tid-bit about walnuts is that there is a big market developing for the burl from walnuts. A burl is a type of wood in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner due to the grafting of the lighter grained English walnut onto the darker grained California black walnut. Today one older tree is often worth over $10,000 because of those burls.