Almond Trade in Asia
California produces 70 percent of the world's supply of almonds. Japan imports 100 percent of its almonds from California which ranks the second largest export market valued at $100 million. Almonds are California's largest food export.
Thirty years ago, almonds were virtually unknown in Japan until Blue Diamond Growers, a California cooperative of about 3,500 farmers, opened an office in Tokyo in 1969. After almost 20 years of market and new product development, Blue Diamond gained distribution through all 17 of the Japanese Coca Cola bottlers who sell Blue Diamond almonds along with other consumer products. Breaking through the complicated Japanese distribution system is a key to success in Japan.
History of 'Almond Lore'
The Japanese believe almonds were first brought to their island by Portuguese traders. They were called by the Portuguese sound of "amendo" or Chinese name "Hatankyo" which was changed to "almond" during World War II when they were first commercially introduced by the U.S. military. Reference to almonds first appeared in the Japanese "encyclopedia" during the Edo era (1681) by Genri Endo who called them a medicinal plant used for coughs.
In ancient India, almonds were only known regionally in Cashmere and Himalaya where they were first introduced by Persian and Afghanistan tradesmen. They were referred to as 'Batam' (a Persian word) and Aruka in ancient medicinal writing. Almonds were believed to be a sacred "brain" food which increased thinking abilities and also as an aphrodisiac, beliefs that are still held today. Businessmen still crush almonds in water to create a 'power drink' prior to important meetings. Jordan almonds which are pan coated are used at important ceremonies and weddings. India is the fastest growing market for California almonds because of their high protein value in a meatless society. Sales to India could eventually surpass Japan..
Almonds were first introduced in China via the silk road from Persia and were called "Hatan' from the Persian word "Batam.' They were referenced in Chinese medicinal writings (Ming era 1368-1644) as an herb for coughing and upset stomach. China could be a market with the biggest potential for growth as almond tariffs come down and China becomes a member of the World Trade Organization.