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Walnuts: uproar over climate crisis impact

March 20, 2024 at 11:10 AM , Der AUDITOR
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FOLSOM/SANTIAGO. Demand for US walnuts is strong. With the new season kicking off prospects are far from encouraging in Chile. Trouble are environmental issues.

Strong US exports

February marked another strong month for US walnuts as the shipments report issued by California Walnuts shows. At 29.7 million pounds monthly inshell shipments ranged 44% higher than in February last year and shelled walnut shipments reached 56.4 million pounds, which is 26% up on last year. Total shipments have climbed to 240.8 million pounds (+33% YoY) for inshell walnuts and to 316 million pounds (+22% YoY) for shelled walnuts. Final crop receipts have confirmed a record 823,549 tons for 2023/2024, which is 8% up on the initially estimated 760,000 tons.

Combined domestic inshell and shelled shipments have risen by 22% to 149 million pounds and exports by 7% to 408 million pounds. Turkey is the leading export destination for the US, followed by Germany and Italy. The United Arab Emirates stand out as this is the only destination in amongst the top ten to which shipments have declined. Contrary to this, shipments to India have nearly tripled.

US walnut shipments, inshell and shelled (in 1,000 pounds)

Destination

2022/23

2023/24

Diff.

USA

121,850

149,154

22.4%

Turkey

65,651

95,335

45.2%

Germany

33,561

48,547

44.6%

Italy

25,819

43,078

66.8%

Spain

21,520

28,994

34.7%

UAE

40,228

27,482

-31.7%

India

7,850

20,116

156.2%

Korea

15,794

20,006

26.7%

Japan

14,224

14,891

4.7%

Netherlands

10,518

13,248

25.9%

UK

5,968

10,552

76.8%

Others

77,067

85,526

11.0%

Total

440,050

556,929

26.6%

California Walnut Board, 01/09-29/02

Uproar over winter weather

At present the walnut market is in uproar over price rises and the impact of the climate crisis. Despite the record crop in California the high demand for shelled walnuts has left scant supplies, which is presently driving up prices. Chill hours are also an issue for the Chandler variety. While the trees experienced sufficient chill hours last year, this winter was a bit warmer and chill hours are more in line with the winter of 2019/2020. As winter chill hours are expected to decline in the next decades and it will take some time for new varieties to be developed that are better adapted to warmer winters research is underway as to which treatments can be used to compensate for the lack of chill hours.

Prices are also on the rise in Chile. As market analyst Areté reports quotations for Chandler 80 shelled walnuts have risen by 13% in March for shipments to Europe range 51% higher than last year. Trouble are environmental challenges such as water shortages and not cold enough weather in the northern and central parts of the country. Production estimates range at 144,000-162,000 mt, which would be 10-12% less than last year. The new season officially starts on 21 March.

Weak February in Chile

February, the final month of the 2023/2024 export season, was rather weak in Chile. Monthly inshell equivalent walnut exports dipped by 34% to 2,219 mt as compared with February 2023. Total combined inshell and shelled walnut exports are relatively flat for the season at 136,909 mt. While inshell walnut exports range 5% higher than last season at 103,019 mt, it should be noted that shelled walnut exports have declined by 10% to 33,890 mt according to ChileNut. As shipments surged by 88% India advanced to the most important export destination by far for Chile in 2023/2024. Contrary to this, export to Turkey slumped by 21%. Italy remains third and shipments to here have risen by 12%.

Walnut exports, Chile, inshell and shelled (in mt)

Destination

2022/23

2023/24

Diff.

India

26,594

49,749

87.7%

Turkey

31,198

24,660

-21.0%

Italy

10,559

11,796

11.7%

Spain

7,789

7,844

0.8%

Morocco

7,314

5,414

-26.0%

Germany

6,231

5,105

-18.1%

Brazil

3,823

4,850

26.9%

Netherlands

6,859

3,680

-46.4%

China

3,114

2,611

-16.2%

UAE

8,791

2,185

-75.2%

Others

23,265

19,015

-18.3%

Total

135,447

136,909

1.1%

ChileNut, 21/03-29/02

 

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