I’ve always said that one of the marks of adulthood is the moment when you start buying food for yourself… and realize how expensive nuts are. They’re chock full o’ (nut candy pun!) good fats, and they taste amazing when salted or roasted although slightly less beneficial for your health. They’re dynamic, too– they’re featured in tons of healthy recipes, gracing a dessert as readily as a salad. These small, delectable objects boast a hefty price. Why are nuts so expensive?
Cashews: $8.29/lb (source: wholesale at Nuts.com)
Cashews originated in Brazil but are currently grown largely in Africa and India. The cashew tree grows cashew apples, that produce a shelled nut. Between the shell and the nut there is in a poisonous oil similar to the irritant in poison ivy. Cashew nuts must be individually shelled then roasted or steamed to eliminate the poisonous oil. This labor intensive process increases the price.
The financial life of the almond has been rather turbulent the last few years. California is one of the only places where almonds can be grown, and grows 80% of the world’s almonds supply. California is in a historic drought, and the expensive cost of water in California and demand has traditionally driven the high price of almonds. The strong U.S. dollar has caused decreased demand in European and Asian markets while 2016, an El Nino year, saw an increased supply and a drop in prices, so many experts claimed the reign of expensive almonds was over. Almond growers believe that supply and demand will soon reach an equilibrium.
Pecans are native to the U.S., grown largely in Georgia, Texas and New Mexico. Between 2006 and 2009, U.S. pecan exports to China grew by about 8 times, and demand has only grown since. Strong pecan demand in China and Asia keeps prices high. In recent years, weather has not been kind to the crop, especially in Georgia, decreasing supply.
Pistachios are often one of the most expensive nuts because of the nature of their trees. Pistachio trees have small peak yields, and only achieve peak yield every other year. Pistachios are only heavily grown in Iran, Turkey, and California because they need a cool winter and long warm summer. After one of the worst pistachio harvests ever in 2015, the 2016 harvest was incredibly successful, so the price has decreased but not as much as expected.
These small nuts are grown on big trees, so they take up a lot of space. Add to that the drought in California, where so many nuts are grown, and increasing international demand and you’ve got yourself a recipe for high prices. Ultimately, they’re worth the extra cash you may shell out!