MarketReport April 2022
The intercontinental identity crisis within the cashew industry is complete.
Inshell prices remain firm and continue to increase on a daily basis. High demand by exporters and the ongoing demand of Asian processors are responsible for this. The Indian domestic inshell demand looks like an endless pit these days. There is unconfirmed news that Odisha’s Ganjam district has a 40% crop loss due to the tea mosquito attack. So, expectations of a smaller domestic crop may be the key driver, along with a strong recovery in demand post COVID-19. Vietnam and Cambodia crops were impacted by heavy rain events since the start of the season, with expectations of a 15% lower yield.
For now the African inshell industry can’t complain, as the rain factors impacting Asian crops have resulted in African inshell prices increasing by nearly 25% since the start of the season. Africa also has regions where crops are expected to come out short. Major shortages are expected in Nigeria and Benin crops; shortages that will keep inshell prices firm during this harvest season.
In the kernel market, we have seen prices start to increase, which is forcing short coverage. Processors have been trading their kernels significantly different than inshells for about the last six months. Lack of demand from main destination markets were seen as the root cause for lower kernel prices. During this period, processors had residual positions from last crop, hence they were able to absorb the lower kernel prices. However, they are now sourcing higher priced new crop and lower kernel prices will impact processors. Consequently, we have seen a consistent increase in kernel offer prices in recent weeks.
Demand is steady now, however we’ve yet to see if inflationary pressures will impact consumer behavior. Will consumers see nuts in general as a luxury item, or will they continue to be viewed as a vital part of a healthy and nutritious lifestyle?
Factors to watch
- Short crop across various main growing areas
- Inshell demand is robust and likely to remain strong for rest of season
- Kernel coverages beyond Q2 are limited
- Reduction in spending may lead to consumption drop
- With the currency weakening further, we may see a stronger shift to local EU crops i.e. walnuts, almonds
Despite late April storms, California and the western states continue to face extreme drought conditions. Growers remain reticent in selling new crop, as well as current crop at reduced price levels. Despite the market trying to push levels down further, we have seen pricing firming even in the face of the largest carry-over in history.
While the industry continues to fight for space on container ships, we did see March shipments reflect these efforts with 245 million pounds shipped for the month. In fact, March was the best month of the crop year thus far. Shipping issues however do continue, only combated by processors paying more for containers and space on vessels than ever before.
This leaves the industry to date (through March) with 1.683 billion pounds shipped, 14.95% behind compared to a year ago. The April shipping report will be released on May 11th. With just four shipping months to go for the new crop year, expectations are for a carry-over close to
900 million pounds.
The USDA released the preliminary acreage report for 2022 stating a bearing acreage of 1.37 billion pounds for the next crop year. This is a modest increase of roughly 3.8% from last year’s bearing acreage of 1.32 million acres. The important takeaway from this is the decreasing rate of new acreage coming online, coupled with decreasing nursery sales for new trees also falling from previous years. The crop size is showing signs of topping out, trending down for the first time in many years.
Finally, the industry estimates 2.9 billion pounds for the 2022 crop, and a projected 900 million pounds carry-out, making the supply for the next season 8% higher than it was this year. We therefore believe market sentiment will continue to keep trading within a thin range of approximately $0.10 per pound from current levels. Maintaining this narrow trading margin will help keep demand growth on a positive trajectory, eventually bringing supply and demand back into equilibrium over the course of the next 12 months or so.
The March shipment report was very strong as pistachios continue to outperform the other California tree nuts on shipments. March shipments were up a total of 35.9%, while total domestic was up 24.7% and total exports up 43.3%. YTD shipments are now up 9.9% versus last year with domestic up 12%, and exports up 8.9%.
Pistachio demand has been very strong over the last month with participation from most global markets. As a result, most sellers are now well sold, with some having gone off the market currently. There are rumors circulating of a frost in Iran that will have an adverse effect on their 2022 crop. However, we are working to verify the validity of these rumors and extent of the damage. As a result of these factors, pistachio pricing remains firm. Inshell Extra 21/27 is currently trading between $3.55 and $3.60 FAS. Kernels have also begun to firm again recently with sales reported as high as $8.90-$8.95.
Early indications are that the California 2022 crop looks “good” post bloom, however, industry estimates still vary widely between 1.0-1.4 billion pounds. It is still too early to narrow down the range any further than that. We will know much more on the potential of the 2022 crop in the coming month.
While March shipments were technically down 1% versus last year, the California walnut industry continues to take large steps in the right direction. March (2021) was an outlier and was 21% larger than any other March in history; this March (2022) was basically flat to last. YTD shipments continue to improve, originally down 22.4% at the end of December to down only 15.8% at the end of March. Sales for the month of 81,553 tons are also considerably higher than each of the last three months and the largest we have seen since November. If we continue this kind of pace, and it is our expectation that we will, it is now feasible to reach a carry out as low as 120,000 tons or potentially even lower. Given the current low price environment and the fact that the industry needs to move this crop due to the perishability of walnuts, we are expecting considerably higher shipments versus last year during the last five months of this crop year.
Chile continues to seek approximately 10% premium over California pricing. Supply chain issues have emerged in both China (due to Covid cases and lockdowns), and Ukraine (due to war). Given these global scenarios at the other three major origins, the California walnut industry has an opportunity to turn what was once a daunting carry out into a somewhat manageable position. We must continue to keep up the momentum and sell and ship as much as possible over the next five months in order for this to materialize.
Pricing has remained relatively stable over the last several weeks for most grades. We are continuing to see higher quality grades in short supply and expect these items to continue to firm on the back of limited availability.
Inflationary cost pressures virtually everywhere, bullish commodity markets, continued supply chain and labor challenges, global conflicts and associated trickle-down impacts, shut-downs in response to continued COVID outbreaks (China), questions regarding future demand, and uncertainties regarding 2022 peanut acres; these are just some of the factors that are contributing to a bit of nervousness in the U.S. peanut market.
Most of the conversation recently seems to revolve around peanut acres in the U.S. for 2022. At the end of March, the USDA published the annual “Planting Intentions” report for 2022. This report predicted peanut acres to be down about 0.9% versus last year. The data used in this report was based on feedback from growers in late February and early March. Since then, markets for competing crops have done nothing but move substantially higher. Cotton futures, for example, have moved up over 20% since that time. The thinking, or concern, is that additional peanut acres have been lost to cotton, as growers have possibly changed their mind on the ratio of the crops they will plant. Any final decisions are being made now, as planting is now underway and will continue for the next six to seven weeks. If indeed the USDA is accurate in their prediction, one could reasonably assume U.S. peanut production in 2022 would be in the range of 3.0 million farmer stock tons, assuming a five year yield average.
From a demand perspective peanut usage in the U.S. is holding steady, up 0.4% crop year to date versus last year. To be expected, U.S. exports continue to lag, down about 24% crop year to date. The latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report indicates the U.S. will carry 1.14 million tons of current crop farmer stock into the next marketing year, which begins in August. However, unless exports gain strength over the next five months, or the USDA makes a major “adjustment” in their numbers, actual carryout is likely to be closer to 1.25 million tons when all is said and done. If indeed the carryout approaches 1.25 million tons, it would represent the largest carryout since the 2017 crop year.
Most of the crop for the current season is traded, and the market is now looking forward to the crop development for the next season. The weather disruptions in the Black Sea region had dominated the news last month, with temperatures in some areas dropping below -5 degrees Celsius. However, the crop damage was limited to only a few areas, and overall crop development for next year seems unaffected. All other origins are reporting average crop development for now. We had news of frost concerns in Italy as well, but the effect seems minimal.
The current year crop availability continues to be limited, especially the inshells. The TMO had sold its first lot of 20K MT last month and had offered next tranche of 20K this month. However, the price of 41 TL/kg did not find any buyers, and the open market consequently corrected. Current market is trading in the 75-78 TL/kg range. The TL continues to slide against the USD and is inching towards 15 TL to $1 USD. This slide is helping negate the upward price movement in the origin.
The demand was subdued for most of the month – with most CPG companies already covered for current season crop and Easter holidays. We continue to get inquiries from mid-sized buyers and processors. Since the buyers were silent for almost four to six weeks, we should expect robust buying in the coming few weeks. The conflict between Ukraine and Russia, and resultant inflation in the European market has not affected call-offs yet, but buyers will be cautious in covering long periods for some time. The demand from Russia is expected to reduce in a short-medium term.
Most of the frost risk is now past us, and we are expecting a good supply year coming up. We believe the current downside to the market is low at current levels. Considering an election year coming up, the TMO will be inclined towards offering a price attractive to the farmer voters in the region. This can pose a significant upside to the market.
Another round of extreme weather conditions in Australia is reportedly to further impact the crop and the forecast will be revised downwards once the impact is completely understood by the end of May. Initial growth estimations were 6.6% (55K MT against 51.5K MT in 2021), however there is word the number may be on par with last year or even slightly lower. Harvest was delayed due to a second round of rains; expect the kernels to be out from Australia in June.
Macadamias South Africa’s (SAMAC’s) current projection for their 2022 crop is 57.7K MT, 8% higher than 2021. Major growing areas in the country, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, are expected to show promising growth in the number. Limpopo is expected to increase the output by 20% this season. Mpumalanga region has some negative sentiment due to unfavorable weather conditions during flowering time, however the final nut set is not looking far off, so no major issues are expected. Harvest has already started, with positive feedback on the quality and color so far.
There has been no official number on the crop from Kenya, and we have not heard of any reported issues either. However, there has been a concern in the local market that a high quantity of immature crop was bought by the brokers in February at a discount and this could be offloaded in the market in the form of first crop out of the region and can compromise the quality of the produce in export markets.
Across industry we have seen S4, S5 and S8 softening over the last few months; industry continues to be long on these grades. Demand, if any, is driven by wholes (S0, S1L and S1A) for now.
New kernel crop from Australia and South Africa is expected to be in the market only from July-August; and with continued lack of demand from China and the EU, we can expect the market to soften both for inshells and kernel.