Nuts

Pine nuts: more than just a luxury food

September 26, 2023 at 10:01 AM , Der AUDITOR
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BRUSSELS/BEIJING. While the dangers of harvesting pine nuts have been highlighted in China in recent weeks, demand is an issue in the USA. EU imports, however, show quite a different trend.

Low supplies in 2023/2024

Pine nuts hit the headlines at the start of September as a Chinese nut picker survived a 200-mile journey in an escaped hydrogen balloon. The man, whose surname is given as HU, spent two days aloft in his balloon after it became untethered while he was harvesting pine nuts in China’s north-eastern Heilongjiang province according to state media. Luckily his partner was able to jump out in time and call the rescue service. Apart from this, China’s crop is reported to be quite small this year and supplies are limited. As prices are expected to remain favourable many suppliers prefer to hold on. Buyers should, however, also consider exchange rates, which may render prices more attractive.

A similar picture is, in addition, emerging in most other producing countries. Harvesting is, for instance, underway in Russia, Pakistan and Korea as well as Afghanistan and the USA with supplies expected to be more limited. Growing conditions, in addition, spell lower yields in the USA for 2024. Contrary to this, prospects look much better in Turkey, Portugal and Spain. Yet, demand certainly is an issue as many consumers consider pine nuts a luxury food in the US and have tightened their belts this year. This in part explains why prices slumped by more than half in the US between January and August. Although rates have recently bounced back, they are unlikely to reach last year’s levels.

Demand not an issue in EU

Buyers in the EU have certainly struck a bargain this year. While EU pine nut imports have risen by a nominal 4% in terms of volume, they have declined by 26% in terms of value this year so far as compared with the same period last year. While the EU imported 5.797 million kg worth EUR 144 million in 2022, the figures presently stand at 6 million kg worth EUR 107 million for 2023. China accounts for as much as 83% of all EU imports. Russia, Mongolia and Turkey follow with much smaller market shares of 8%, 3% and just under 3% respectively. Kazakhstan may only account for 2% of the EU’s total imports but volumes have surged more than 40-fold this year.

EU pine nut imports (kg)

Country

2022

2023

Diff.

China

4,259,449

4,961,058

16.5%

Russia

927,472

453,655

-51.1%

Mongolia

160,000

190,000

18.7%

Turkey

252,865

166,611

-34.2%

Kazakhstan

2,850

127,097

4,359.5%

Pakistan

80,498

42,966

-46.7%

Afghanistan

31,700

26,913

-15.2%

UK

24,719

12,053

-51.3%

Lebanon

7,212

8,117

12.5%

Tunisia

4,004

6,000

49.8%

Others

46,226

12,322

-33.4%

Total

5,796,995

6,006,792

3.6%

DG TAXUD’s Customs Surveillance system, provisional data
HS Code 0802920000 – Fresh or dried pine nuts, shelled
01/01-20/09

Expensive nuts with long tradition

Nearly 50% of imports have been destined to Germany this year so far, followed by Italy with 16% and the Netherlands with 10%. Pine nuts have a long-standing tradition in Italy with linguists reckoning that the popular figure of Pinocchio is derived from the rare Tuscan word Pinocchio, which translates as pine nut. In Spain, quotations surged to EUR 18.82/kg (USD 19.98/kg) for Chinese Siberica 950 SR pine nuts and to EUR 27.39 (USD 26.65/kg) for red 650 GR pine nuts in September.

Pine nuts, Spain

Type, origin

EUR/kg

USD/kg

Siberica, 950 GR, China

18.82

19.98

650 GR, China

27.39

26.65

CIF Spain

 


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