Increased consumer preference of walnut due to its alpha-linolenic acid content

The 2009 walnut harvest, currently underway in the California Central Valley, is estimated to be 415,000 short tons according to USDA NASS California Field Office estimates, a number which will be confirmed in February 2010. Overall, the California walnut crop has increased by 74% since 2000, though the current estimate is 4.4% lighter than last year's record crop of 434,301 short tons.

According to California Walnut Commission Chairman Sam Keiper, "Walnut growers have experienced good growing conditions this year despite 100 degree temperatures lasting more than one week during summer months. This year's crop is not last year's but it's a high-quality crop and we're very happy with it."

Walnuts continue to enjoy strong consumer preference because they are the only nut that contains a significant amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) the plant based omega-3 essential fatty acid required by the human body. As one of the best food sources of omega-3s, a one ounce serving of walnuts provides 2.5 grams of ALA.

Due to the strength of clinical research supporting benefits in cardiovascular health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a qualified health claim for walnuts in 2004.

"The California walnut industry consistently produces high-quality walnuts while maintaining a superior food safety record which is becoming increasingly important as consumers seek out food products to improve their well being," notes Dennis A. Balint, Executive Director of the California Walnut Board.

The California walnut industry is comprised of over 4,000 growers and 61 processors, most of which are family businesses working in the fertile California Central Valley. Walnut trees can produce quality nuts for 75 to 100 years and orchards are often passed down from generation to generation.

The California Walnut Board was established in 1948 to represent the walnut growers and handlers of California. The CWB is funded by mandatory assessments of the handlers and is governed by a Federal Walnut Marketing Order. The Board promotes usage of walnuts in the United States through publicity and educational programs as well as funding for walnut production and post-harvest research.

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