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Almonds: drought to impact 2024 crop

December 22, 2023 at 10:01 AM , Der AUDITOR
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MADRID/SACRAMENTO. October and November were strong export months for almonds in Spain and the California. Water supplies are crucial and the outlook for the 2024 crop is far from encouraging.

Exports still down in Spain

Spain’s almond exports performed strong in October 2023 by rising to 14,970 mt, which is 3% up on the 14,533 mt registered in October 2022. Yet, total exports range 9% lower than last year at 36,201 mt for August to October 2023. Shipments have declined to nearly all top ten destinations with the noted exception of the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria. Although shipments to France declined by 16%, the country still is the most important buyer for Spain, followed by Germany and Italy. Exporters were dismayed to find that low prices failed to attract buyers in recent months.

Almond exports, Spain (mt)

Destination

2022

2023

Diff

France

9,570

8,084

-15.6%

Germany

8,698

7,799

-10.4%

Italy

6,917

4,134

-40.3%

Portugal

1,757

1,571

-10.6%

UK

1,550

1,432

-7.7%

Netherlands

897

1,253

39.7%

Poland

1,343

1,162

-13.5%

Belgium

1,197

1,005

-18.1%

Switzerland

717

738

2.9%

Austria

548

691

26.1%

Others

5,646

8,332

47.6%

Total

39,940

36,201

-9.4%

Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade, Spain, 01/08-31/10

Drought has tight grip on Spain

Producers are also far from hopeful the production will improve in 2024. The outlook for next year’s crop is far from encouraging as Spain is suffering from sustained drought, which has already caused olive oil prices to skyrocket. The country witnessed scorching temperatures in 2022, several heatwaves in 2023 and nearly three years of lower rainfall. Reservoirs are also depleted throughout the country. In addition, the climate crisis has prolonged the dry summer season.

Challenges prevail in California

California may have been more fortunate this year regarding water, but many challenges persist here too. The prolonged wet weather in winter and spring caused harvest delays and high insect-infestation levels. Crop arrivals were late this year with hullers and shellers busy right through to December and some arrivals are even anticipated as late as January. Reports show that rejects range at an unprecedented 4%, which is twice as high as last year. Growers now have to hurry to remove remaining nuts from the orchards that may otherwise serve as perfect winter food for pests and insects in a race against time to limit potential damages for next year’s crop.

In addition, the final acreage report released by Land IQ in November shows that bearing acreage rose by less than 32,000 acres to 1.37 million acres and that non-bearing acres declined by more than 105,00 acres to 189,005 acres. This highlights that orchard removals are gaining momentum, whereas new plantings are not keeping up. Unsustainable commodity prices and inflation are prompting many growers to switch to other products. These findings are more in line with industry estimates than the upbeat Objective Measurement Report issued by the USDA’s National Agricultural Service (NASS) in July, which anticipated a production of 2,6 billion pounds. Industry estimates presently range at 2.2-2.4 billion pounds for this year's crop.

Water is also an issue, despite California being in the middle of the wet season which lasts from October thought to May. The industry was, in fact, hoping for more rain right up until mid-December as rainfall was below average throughout autumn. Yet, rain and snow have, fortunately, been forecast and El Niño has been reported strong in the Pacific, which has given rise to expectations that the winter will prove wet.

Strong November exports

Suppliers witnessed the second-strongest November in history as monthly shipments came in at a strong 238 million pounds, which is also 17% up on the 204 million pounds registered in November last year as the most recent Position Report issued by the Almond Board of California shows. Total shipments are 9% up on last year at 915 billion pounds with exports still being the driver as they have surged by 14% to 178 million pounds. Domestic shipments, by contrast, range 1% lower. Shipments to India have surged by 31% this season so far with November remaining strong. Exports to China/HongKong are, however, down. At nearly 8 million pounds shipments to Turkey remained strong in November. This may, however, change quickly given that the country increased import tariffs for almonds to 15% last month and an additional 10% apply for shipments from the US, which has driven up the import tariffs for US almonds to an outrageous 25%. Monthly shipments, in fact, range a stunning 50% higher than the 5 million pounds exported to Turkey in November 2022.

Reports state that buyers in Europe may need to brace for supply shortages as vessels are limited and shipments may be delayed. Supplies of small sizes are also limited meaning that buyers may have to revise their specifications. Shipments are reportedly going well in December and demand is expected to remain high in the first quarter of 2024. With demand being strong and production declining carry-in supplies should return to more normal levels sooner than expected.

US almond shipments (1,000 lbs)

Destination

2022/23

2023/24

Diff.

USA

244,357

241,683

-1.1%

India

121,787

159,867

31.3%

China/Hong Kong

62,201

59,766

-4.0%

Spain

59,693

58,176

-2.6%

UAE

50,191

55,672

10.9%

Germany

34,251

35,232

2.9%

Turkey

24,215

31,965

32.0%

Netherlands

22,281

31,520

41.5%

Italy

20,333

26,851

32.0%

Japan

20,898

23,640

13.1%

Others

165,384

190,980

15.5%

Total

835,591

915,352

9.5%

California almonds, 01/08-30/11
Shelled and inshell

 

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price chart, almonds, natural, +14, Valencia
price chart, almonds, natural 13/14, Largueta
price chart, almonds, blanched, 27/30, California SSR
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