Mumbai, Mar 28 (PTI) India, the second largest almond importer in the world last year, has already imported 154 million pounds till February this crop year (August 2017 to July 2018), overtaking Spain and China, according to the Almond Board of California (ABC).

Spain has imported 119 million pounds this year till February, while China has imported 138 million pounds.

India overtook China in last crop year 2016-17 to be ranked the second by importing 167 million pounds, a 33 per cent rise over 125-million-pound imports in the previous year.

“This year, till February, India has already imported 154 million pound, and the shipments for the sub-continent looks bright in the current crop year,” ABC regional director Audarshan Mazumdar told PTI here.

Spain was the biggest almond importer in 2016-17 with 210 million pounds, while China had 150 million pound imports.

According to Mazumdar, India is an important market for ABC and is witnessing a double-digit growth on the back of increasing spending power and the growing middle class who are becoming health conscious.

The board is conducting education and promotional programmes on the benefits of almonds in the country to further boost consumption in India.

“We work towards reminding people to consume the nut daily and for its health benefits,” he added.

Mazumdar said traditionally the northern and the western region of the country are strong in terms of almonds consumption, however, the south is also picking up.

“We run programmes in the southern region of the country and the market is slowly picking up,” he added.

California grows 80 per cent of the total almonds in the world, of which 33 per cent in consumed in the US and Canada, while 67 per cent is exported to 90 countries.

In 2004-05, the Asia Pacific region accounted for 25 per cent of the exports, which has now gone up to 38 per cent, mainly driven by demands from India and China.

The total almond production was 2.01 billion pounds in 2016-17, while it is 2.25 billion pounds this year till February mainly due to increase in area.

“This growth is mainly due to increase in the area. In 1980, the area was 91,000 acres which has now grown to 1 million acres of almond orchards,” he added.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.