Almonds: hard to crack

April 3, 2023 at 12:22 PM , Der AUDITOR
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MADRID/SACRAMENTO. While growers in California are still busy assessing potential damages, Spain has signed a new export deal with China that may turn the tide for Spanish almonds.

China to become top buyer

Producers in Spain are hailing an agreement signed with China on Friday as a milestone. While shipments were previously impossible, Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has now agreed on phytosanitary protocols with the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China that will enable Spain to export almonds and persimmons to China as Spanish news agency EUROPA PRESS reports.

This was a difficult nut to crack for Spain as negotiations for almonds started in October 2017. Expectation is that 50,000 mt of almonds will be exported to China by 2025, which as Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, emphasised during a press conference after meeting China’s President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Qiang, accounts for more than 40% of Spain’s production. This figure may climb to 90,000 mt in 2032. Spain exported a total of 137,566 mt of almonds in 2020/2021 and 148,478 mt in 2021/2022 as official statistics released by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism show. Exports have only reached 76,600 mt between August and January, which is 8% down on the 82,625 mt shipped in the same period in 2020/2021. Issue is that frost and drought reduced production by around 40% to only 60,000 mt in 2022/2023.

Uncertain outlook for 2023 crop

Although prospects are highly encouraging for this year’s crop, there is also a high risk involved. Frost has not been reported in southern Spain so far and weather conditions have been perfect for flowering this year as local producers such as Crisolar report. Flowering may have been off to a late start, but the recent high temperatures coupled with clear blue skies have sped up things. In some places it only takes ten days for flowering to start until the trees lose their petals and in some particularly sunny spots early varieties are already bearing fruit. Late varieties are still in full bloom. Temperatures are high in the southern parts of the country with maximum of 25-30C (77-86F) being reported. High winds and clear skies are also being reported in northern Spain, but the weather is colder with temperatures partly ranging below freezing. Trouble, however, is the general lack of rain throughout the country. This year’s crop may turn out very good but only if enough rain arrives in time.

The opposite is the case in California, where the bloom is largely complete. Wet and stormy conditions have persisted throughout the state in recent months and the National Weather Service estimates that more than 295 trillion litres of rainwater have poured down on the state (78 trillion) so far. Good news is that drought will be less of an issue this year, but the impact on production still needs to show. Exports were strong in February, a trend which is said to have persisted in March.


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