Nuts

Almonds: NASS forecast called into question

May 17, 2021 11:01 AM, Der AUDITOR
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MADRID/SACRAMENTO. Last week's subjective estimate issued by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) came with a bang. Although market experts reckon that another production record is out of the question in California this year as the almond trees need time to recover from last year's record of 3.12 billion pounds, the initial subjective forecast rather predicts another bumper crop of 3.20 billion pounds. This would be the third year in a row that production hits a record in California and begs the question how realistic such expectations are. Traders in Europe have, meanwhile, been deliberating over the impact of the pandemic over the last few months. Now the import data recently updated by the European Commission shows a clear trend in terms of demand.

Subjective forecast comes as a surprise

Sharp rises in bearing acreage and high yields have driven up production in California in recent years. Although bearing acreage is expected to rise again this year, opinions differs as to yields. Market professionals are convinced that the the trees need time to recover this year from two consecutive record production years and that this year's production will at the very most range at around 3 billion pounds. Water supplies, which are a problem in California, will also determine yields.

NASS has now, however, exceeded the most optimistic estimates in forecasting that 2021 will set a new record. Production is forecast to range 3% higher than last year at 3.20 billion pounds. Although NASS concedes that yields in 2021 will range 3% lower than last year's 2,490 pounds per acre, namely at 2,410 pounds, bearing acreage is expected to hit a record of 1,330,000, which is 6.4% up on last year's 1,250,000 acres. NASS is also concerned over low water levels, but emphasises that growing conditions were excellent in April and that the growers are optimistic over the development of the crop, despite variations across regions. A clearer picture will emerge over the next few weeks and an objective forecast will follow on 12 July.

US almond production

Year

Production (million pounds)

Bearing acres

Yield (pounds/acre)

2021*

3,200

1,330,000

2,410

2020

3,115

1,250,000

2,490

2019

2,560

1,180,000

2,170

2018

2,280

1,090,000

2,090

2017

2,270

1,030,000

2,200

National Agricultural Statistics Service / *subjective forecast (May 2021)

Firm prices in Europe

Spot market prices are holding firm in Europe, although supplies can easily meet demand. Natural Valencia almonds, size 12/14, are trading in a range of EUR 3.60-3.85/kg FCA Spain and blanched Valenica almonds the same size at EUR 4.60-4.70/kg FCA Spain. This may, however, change if a record production emerges in the US.

Almonds

Type

EUR/kg

Valencia, 12/14 mm, natural, Spain

3.60-3.85

Valencia, 12/14 mm, blanched, Spain

4.60-4.70

Largueta, 13/14 mm, natural, Spain

5.70

Marcona, 12/14 mm, natural, Spain

7.40

California, SSR, 23/25, natural

4.20

California, SSR, 23/25, blanched

4.85

FCA Spain

Nominal rise in shipments to EU

While traders in Europe reported that the restrictions in place to curb the spread of pandemic had an adverse impact on demand last year, shipments to the EU in fact saw a nominal rise by 4% to 289,232 mt in 2020. While Spain was hard hit by the restrictions imposed as almonds are a popular snack served to tourists in bars and cafes and Chirstmas markets, at which large volumes of almonds are normally consumed, could not take place across Europe, it was also reported that retail demand experienced a boost. Almonds and other edible nuts have gained in popularity as healthy snacks. This shift in demand evidently compensated for any shortfalls in the catering and tourism sector.

While suppliers in the US, Australia and the UK clearly profitted fromt his trend, suppliers in other producing countries such as Chile and Afghanistan lost out. The US remains the most important supplier by far as shipments rose by just over 4% to 259,939 mt. Shipments from Australia are nearly 7% up at 14,320 mt and shipments from the UK have most notably risen sharply by 24%.

Top 5 EU almond suppliers

Country

2019

2020

Diff.

USA

248,821

259,838

4.4%

Australia

13,403

14,320

6.8%

UK

10,363

12,901

24.5%

Chile

841

378

-55.1%

Afghanistan

1,513

245

-83.8%

Others

2,857

1,550

-45.7%

Total

277,798

289,232

4.1%

European Commission

*08021290 Fresh or dried almonds, shelled (excl. bitter)

 

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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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