Posted March 18, 2013 by Dan Cummings
Bloom has come and gone in the almond orchards of California. It was one of the shortest in the last ten years at roughly 11 days. Only 2005, with a very poor almond crop resulting, was shorter at 10-11 days. A more “average” range is 13 to 17 days of bloom when Nonpareil exceeds 10%. Nonetheless, bee flight hours were above average and bloom overlap was good but could have been better. All in all, good weather has likely offset some of the poorest honey bee supplies for pollination in the last several years. Strong colonies did exceptionally well through the short bloom with some colonies plugging out and creating additional space for honey storage in areas between lids and the tops of hive frames. See photo, courtesy of Ray Olivarez, Jr.
Post bloom weather has been nearly ideal with warming soil temperatures for feeder root development and strong leaf emergence and development. Despite all this good “bloom” news, growers expectations for a new record crop are tempered by the short bloom duration, mediocre nonpareil bud set throughout the state (Nonpareil accounts for 36.5% of bearing acres), particular concern about overall bud set in Tulare and Kern counties at the far south end of the state (almost 25% of state production in these two counties), and WATER!!
The Sacramento Bee describes the least recorded January and February combined rainfall since this statistic was first collected in 1921. Click here. What rainfall California has had this year came in heavy deluges late last year which did contribute to reservoir refill. Ironically, these periods of heavy rainfall also resulted in 800,000 AF of water not being diverted to South State urban and agricultural uses in efforts to protect the Delta Smelt, writes Harry Cline for the Western Farm Press. Click here. All eyes will be focused on federal and state water district allocations for 2013.
Record almond shipments in February have advanced 2012 almond shipments ahead of last year to date at 1.176 billion pounds! Perhaps even more telling in the last Almond Board Position Report is the crop receipts-to-date rising to only 1.865 billion pounds increasingly suggesting the final 2012 crop will come in around 1.9 billion pounds, far less than the 2.1 billion pounds forecast. Recent almond prices are very unsettled as both buyers and sellers try to interpret the potential of the 2013 almond crop. Current crop Nonpareils are trading at ~ $3.18 to the grower and Californias at ~ $2.70. Alternative per pound nut meat prices are in the range of:
* Pistachios (Inshell) $5.75
* Pecans $5.00
* Walnuts $4.75
* Macadamia Nuts $4.75
* Hazelnuts $4.00
* Cashews $3.25
Posted January 16, 2013 by Dan Cummings
The 2012 almond crop is coming in well below the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) estimate of 2.1 billion pounds. If the final number is close to 1.85 billion pounds, as many now expect, that would be a shortfall of 250 million pounds, or 12% from industry expectations. There is lots of speculation as to the cause of the short crop but certainly a very dry growing year played a significant role. The average moisture level of deliveries was down 1% from normal. Furthermore, kernel sizes were smaller than expected and often very flat and/or with shrivel on the edges. See photo below with normal sized Padre nuts alongside water stressed nuts! Insect damage was greater than recent years with Nonpareil and Monterey, the two most widely planted varieties, especially suffering. Some areas experienced difficulty removing nuts with un-harvested “mummy nuts” remaining on the trees into the winter. Beyond that, maybe the trees were just simply tired after a record total crop and yield per acre last year!
California began the crop year with a carry in supply of 335 million pounds, equal to only 9 weeks annual shipping average. With shipments of 1.9 billion pounds last year, no growth in shipments this year will still result in drawing down ending inventory further. Prices have risen 70 to 75 cents per pound over this time last year with Nonpareil trading at close to $3.00 per pound to the grower and California varieties at around $2.50 per pound. Almond shipments to China continue to grow, up 10% from this time last year, shipments domestically up 5.5%, but down 6% to Western Europe. All told, shipments to date are down less than 1%.
Increasing yields per acre accompanied by increasing prices have grown the crop value per acre to the highest level ever for California Almonds. Demand for orchard ground has increased even faster as investors look to farm ground as a “safe haven” asset, excellent hedge against inflation, with very cheap mortgage interest rates, and the rate of revenue growth. Many of us in the business wonder how long this can last. But, for the time being, the tree nurseries are sold out and happy.
The prospects for a big crop in 2013 look promising. Bud set up and down the state look strong after last year’s disappointing crop. Trees are rested and received plentiful early winter moisture (rains) leaching salts from the root zone and recharging soil moisture levels. The snow pack at year end was 134% of normal, however it’s been a very dry January. Chilling hours are adequate and the recent abnormally cold weather is holding off bud swelling which ultimately leads to bloom. Late blooms typically set bigger crops. All now depends on pollination weather at bloom, post-bloom growing conditions and the strength of the pollination force.
Graphs courtesy of Dan Cummings
Posted August 13, 2012 by Dan Cummings
Almond harvest has started at the south end of the San Joaquin Valley and west side of the Sacramento Valley. The Central and Northern San Joaquin are a week behind with cooler, especially overnight, temperatures as a consequence of the Bay Delta’s influence on this region’s temperatures. The start of harvest is roughly a week behind “normal” but a full 10 days to two weeks ahead of last year and with the potential to accelerate as California is in the midst of a series of days with temperatures in the 100’s to near 110 in hottest locations. Early reports are the nuts are shaking clean from the trees and quality looks good.
The 2011 crop year ended with another monthly and new annual, record in shipments! There are too many highlights to list them all, so sufficient to point out: (1) shipments to Asia-Pacific region were up 29% over last year to 38% of all export shipments, (2) shipments to Western Europe still comprised 35% of all export shipments and were up slightly despite the economic problems of Europe and resulting 15% fall of the Euro/Dollar purchasing power over this same time, (3) total almond shipments have sustained a compounded annual growth rate of 13% since 2005, and (4) the 2011 crop carryout into 2012 marketing year is only about an 8 week supply.
Almonds have fewer calories than previously thought! A USDA study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition supports what many involved in almond nutrition research have thought for years; namely that , “…the number of calories actually digested and absorbed from almonds...” is actually 20% less than traditional methods of calculating calories would predict. The Almond Board of California press release can be read by clicking here.
It’s a good thing that NASS is predicting another record almond crop in 2012 because the industry is going to need the supply! To read the 2012 California Almond Objective Measurement Report click here. Measured Nonpareil nut set is down 7 percent from last year as expected with an offsetting 5% increase in California variety nut set. Bearing acres are up 20,000 to 780,000 acres in the State. Most noteworthy is the 2,690 pounds per acre yield forecast, up slightly from last year’s remarkable record of 2,670 pounds per acre.
Posted April 12, 2012 by Dan Cummings
The 2012 almond bloom concluded a month ago with far better pollinating hours than last year and better than average over the last 10 years as measured by bee flight hours. Bloom was characterized by good/excellent overlap of varieties, average duration, few completely lost pollination days from poor weather, a moderate (weak in some locations) Nonpareil bud set and strong pollenizer bud set. This last observation is in contrast to 2011, when the Nonpareil variety was up 206 million pounds and represented 38.8% of a 2.012 billion pound crop. In 2010, Nonpareil represented 34.1% of a 1.628 billion pound crop. Even with the better pollination weather, many in the industry question the ability of orchards to repeat the record 2,684 pound per acre yield, up 11.8% from the previous record of 2,400 pounds per acre just four year ago (2008). A reduction in Nonpareil yield of 20% with an increase in pollenizers of 10 – 15% would produce about the same crop as 2011, but with different distribution of varieties.
I am tempted to repeat my cautionary statement of a year ago (April 2, 2011 post, second paragraph) regarding cool and wet weather adversely impacting crop development. This has been our weather again this year for a large part of the State. However, after last year’s pollination and post-bloom weather… and the resulting record crop… I think I shall refrain!
2011 crop almond receipts top 2 billion pounds as reported in the March Almond Position report!!! Almond shipments were 172 million pounds in March, up over 32% from last year’s record March. Shipments are up 177 million pounds over last year to date (YTD), or a very impressive 15.2%! Record shipments have occurred 10 of the last 12 months. YTD shipments to China are now over 225 million pounds (including tonnage presumed transshipped from Viet Nam) or nearly 2/3rds of the 353 million pounds shipped to U.S. destinations. Shipments to Spain, traditionally the largest export market for California, are up 13% to 110 million pounds YTD. Shipments to India are up 15%, to 90 million pounds YTD. Total commitments are 26% greater than last year with uncommitted inventory up only a very modest 57 million pounds, or 13%, from the same time last year. Very impressive for a new crop record 24% greater than last year.
Nonpareil continue to trade at levels returning $2.20/pound for average sizes, and pollenizers are up a bit to $2.00/pound for Carmel and $1.95/pound for California varieties. Offers for 2012 crop are roughly 15 to 20 cents below current crop and receiving little interest from California growers. Even with all the impressive growth in almond consumption, almonds remain the cheapest tree nut after consecutive record or near record crops coming out of California. Below are the comparative figures for the various nutmeats:
Almonds $ 2.35/pound
Cashews $ 3.25/pound
Hazelnuts $ 3.95/pound
Walnuts $ 4.50/pound
Pistachios $ 6.15/pound
Pecans; $ 7.25/pound
Posted February 27, 2012 by Dan Cummings
The 2012 California almond bloom is once again well underway with some of the best weather conditions in many years. The bloom overlap of varieties is excellent. Pollenizer bud set is very strong; however Nonpareil bud set has been characterized as ‘mediocre’ throughout the State. Another potentially telling comment is, ‘there’s a lot of green out there,’ meaning trees are greening up with leaf spikes emerging while petals are still on the flowers. Green trees indicate plenty of nutrients for leaves and not a tree stressed with a heavy crop load. For more information on the progression of the 2012 almond bloom, visit Blue Diamond Growers’ website at http://www.bluediamond.com/applications/in-the-field/index.cfm?navid=101.
There were adequate and good quality colonies of honey bees in the state this year. In fact, there have been numerous comments on greater uniformity of hive strength with many producers enjoying the best colonies in recent memory. For more information on honey bee colonies, click on ‘Bee Status’ on the PAm homepage.
The Sacramento and Southern San Joaquin Valley are several days ahead of the Central and Northern San Joaquin Valley. Bloom started off very quickly and then seemed to extend a little longer than initially expected. Warm weather during the day and night this past week, is forecasted to transition to cooler temperatures with a chance of light rainfall this coming week. Thus, the peak bloom north and south will have experienced different pollination weather than the middle of the state. Industry insiders believe it will be tough to match last year’s record crop even with the much better pollinating conditions due to tired trees.
Almond prices are currently at their best level this crop year; up 20 to 25 cents per pound from last fall. Nonpareils are returning $2.20 plus to the grower, California varieties at $1.90 and Standards at $1.80. Higher prices are available in each category for larger sizes. There is a clear expectation that the very large Nonpareil and lighter pollenizer crop mix of last year will be reversed this year. Shipments year-to-date are 11% greater than last year after record January shipments of over 158 million pounds. This is some 28% above last year. China continues to be the principal driver of the demand for almonds and all nuts. Export shipments to China year- to- date are 167 million pounds - up 35% over last year. Industry commitments are 25% ahead of last year foretelling continued strong shipments and a modest carryout inventory at year’s end.
Posted November 16, 2011 by Dan Cummings
The most recent Almond Board of California position report (click here) reflected record shattering shipments of 219.5 million pounds in October, or in just 744 hours as one handler reported! This is up 16% from the same month last year and the first time in history monthly shipments have exceeded 200 million pounds. The slow start resulting from supply shortages discussed previously has rapidly been redressed. Shipments to Asia have been especially strong - up 30% from last October and 19% year to date. There is some concern surrounding European economic problems, but an increase of 34% in committed inventory over last year and industry expectations for another strong shipment month in November are expected to keep almond prices firm.
Nonpareil production looks likely to exceed the 750 million pound estimate, pollenizers perhaps coming in a little lighter than expected, with total crop probably pretty close again to the National Agricultural Statistics Service estimate of 1.95 billion pounds. Prices have held up well given the 20% increase in expected production over last year. This has been in part due to limited early availability with scant carryover from last year, the late start to harvest and subsequent rain delays. Strong sales reflected in shipment and committed inventory reports have allowed sellers to maintain prices even as the bulk of the crop is being received. Today Nonpareil is trading between $2.00 to $2.35 per pound to the grower and heavily affected by size. The record crop has resulted in a lot of smaller sized nuts though not to the extent suffered in 2008. Pollenizer prices are tightly grouped with California varieties at $1.55 to 1.65, Carmel a nickel more, Butte/Padre a nickel less.
Posted July 29, 2011 by Dan Cummings
More for the Records Book The 2011 California Almond Objective Measurement Report was released July 6th, forecasting a new record of 1.95 billion pounds. That’s a record 2,600 pounds per acre AVERAGE on 750,000 bearing acres, up 8.33% from the previous record yield per acre of 2,400 pounds in 2008. It’s hard to believe that California’s FIRST billion plus pound crop came as recently as 2002. Bearing acreage is up 37.6% over the last 9 years and yield per acre up 30%! Click here for the full report.
We have a far better crop on the trees than we have any right to expect after last spring’s weather conditions at bloom. My personal bloom experience in the Orland area was 6 solid days through peak bloom without any bee flight. . 2,600 pound per acre AVERAGE throughout the state - bears repeating!! NASS has been pretty darn accurate and most in the industry find it hard to contest this year’s estimate after last year’s 1.62 billion pound crop against a 1.65 billion pound estimate that many felt was clearly high!
v The cool and moist bloom conditions prolonged bloom and enhanced overlap of varieties,
v A somewhat light crop in the middle of California’s growing region last year rested trees in this area and they were particularly poised to set a big crop,
v Last year’s above average rainfall flushed salts accumulated from the previous dry years through the root zone and the mild summer allowed significant fruiting wood development, andv Continued evolution of farming practices; varieties all blooming together, increasing tree density, nutrition, water management.
Posted June 7, 2011 by Dan CummingsCold and Wet: Weather conditions in California continue wetter and 15 to 20 degrees cooler than average… a mixed blessing. Snow Water Equivalents at the end of May was 465% of normal for Northern California, 309% for Central California and 187% for Southern California. The season’s above average precipitation and heavy snowpack are a welcome relief from the drought conditions still fresh in the minds of farmers. The mild weather conditions have allowed for a manageable melt and runoff without flooding.
Posted May 19, 2011 by Dan Cummings
Almond Acreage: The 2010 California Almond Acreage report was released on April 28 predicting 750,000 bearing acres in 2011. For the full report, click here. This was only 10,000 acres more than 2010 and came as bit of a welcome surprise to the almond industry as many thought it could have been significantly more. This reflects a declining rate of new plantings from a peak of over 62,000 acres in 2005 to just over 13,000 acres in 2010 mirroring the decline in prices from $2.81 in 2005 to $1.45 in 2008 with 2009 and predicted 2010 at $1.65. Over 15,000 acres of mostly older trees are believed to have been removed. Four counties now account for 64% of the total bearing almond acreage in California; Kern, Fresno, Merced and Stanislaus.
New acreage is heavily weighted to the Nonpareil variety, 24,967 non-bearing acres, as a consequence of the premium prices over pollenizers often received these last few years. Monterey was a strong second with 11,534 non-bearing acres. Butte, Carmel, Fritz and Aldrich also had strong new acreage totals. Growers may be speculating that varieties blooming together stand a better chance of setting a crop even in bad weather than blanketing the Nonpareil bloom on both ends
Water/Snow Pack: California’s Governor Brown declared an end to the statewide drought declared by then Governor Schwarzenegger in June of 2008. The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) reports snowpack statewide is at 205 percent of seasonal average making it the wettest winter and spring since 1995. DWR anticipates at present it can provide 80 percent of requested State Water Project deliveries in 2011. Most state reservoirs are also above average storage levels. The State Water Project's main reservoir, Lake Oroville, is now at 111 percent of average storage and Lake Shasta, the largest Central Valley Project reservoir, is also at 111 percent of average.
2011 Subjective Almond Crop Forecast: The initial subjective forecast for 2011 almond production is 1.75 billion pounds, 6 percent above last year’s production. For the full report, click here. If accurate, and if the 2010 crop achieves estimate, this would be the fifth record crop in the last six years! The forecast was developed based on a telephone survey of 375 growers representing 27% of the total bearing almond acreage. The objective estimate, based on field sampling is scheduled for release June 30.
Record March and April Almond Shipments: March almond shipments, as reported by the Almond Board of California, were up 21.6% from the previous March and April shipments were up 19.6% from the previous April. Year to date, total shipments have increased 10.5%. This news together with the Almond Acreage Report and Subjective Crop Forecast has resulted in some firming of almond prices. Current prices to growers for 2010 crop are around $2.10/lb for Nonpareil, $1.70 for Carmel/Monterey and $1.60 for California varieties. New crop prices are roughly 10 cents lower on limited volume. Almond growers continue to be frustrated at these price levels with nearly all farming inputs significantly more expensive than a few years ago and almonds the cheapest tree nut on the market; e.g. cashews $3.30/lb, walnuts nearly $4.00/lb., pecans above $6.00/lb, hazelnuts $3.25/lb.
Posted April 2, 2011 by Dan Cummings
Almond bloom ended for most Nonpareil structured orchards around the 8th of March, with hard shell orchards finishing a week to 10 days later. Total hours for Nonpareil bloom ranged from around 60 hours at the southern end of the State to the mid-20’s at the northern end of the State. Nearly all areas had fewer hours than last year, which was itself a mediocre year, with the Sacramento Valley experiencing roughly half as many hours. This was one of the longer blooms in the last ten years, 15-18 days again for Nonpareil, and varietal overlap was almost as good as last year in the San Joaquin Valley but not the Sacramento Valley. Correspondingly, growers’ crop expectations improve North to South. No damaging frosts have occurred since the morning of February 27. However, March 20 did see winds exceeding 50 mph, after soaking rains, with tree loss resulting in the northern San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento Valley.Coffee shop talk has revolved around the sizing of nutlets during the last few weeks of cold and wet weather. Lack of jacket break and uneven sizing are indications of either inadequate pollination or of poor root and leaf functioning to deliver the nutrients needed for growth. All are surprised that the 2010 crop has reached 1.61 million pounds and is still drifting up even with last year’s “poor” bloom conditions and the very poor weather at harvest. February shipments were virtually the same as a year ago with a new monthly domestic record, while Chinese shipments up 17% year-to-date and Europe down 9% year-to-date. Current crop prices are at $2.15 Nonpareil and $1.60 California and Standards to the grower. New crop (2011) is very thinly traded and generally weakening with the sunny skies and finally warming temperatures. Offers for new crop are at the $1.90 level for Nonpareil and $1.30 for California/Standards.
Posted March 1, 2011 by Dan Cummings
The almond bloom is well underway in California and even drawing to a close in the Sacramento Valley which bloomed significantly ahead of the San Joaquin Valley. Conditions have been far less than ideal with a very cold air mass over California these last two weeks. The Sacramento Valley went a stretch of 6 days with rain and very cold conditions, even snow on the Valley floor, during peak Nonpareil bloom. The San Joaquin Valley is now at peak bloom and faring a little better. Flowering overlap of varieties is very good but there has been considerable variation of bloom expression in orchards in close proximity, up and down the State. Coupled with the intermittent bad weather, this will be an especially difficult crop to estimate. Bloom hours to date are one-third to one-half of last year’s poor-to-mediocre bloom. An up to date account of the almond bloom progression can be found at Blue Diamond’s website http://www.bluediamond.com/applications/in-the-field/index.cfm?navid=101.
A major frost threat passed without significant damage this past weekend. Skies cleared Friday night after rainfall, hail and even light snow, over much of the State during the day. Modest dew points and some air movement prevented a damaging frost. The north wind blew Saturday and dew points fell into the mid 20’s setting the stage for a hard frost with low temperatures forecast in the mid 20’s with some locations possibly experiencing low 20’s. Most almond varieties at full bloom suffer 50% or greater damage at 27 degrees for 30 minutes. (J.H. Connell & R.L. Snyder, 1990) Less is known about the damage potential of prolonged periods at slightly warmer, but still below freezing, temperatures. Fortunately, light winds prevailed throughout the night keeping temperatures above critical levels. Minimal damage was incurred.
Almond shipments were off a mere 1.9% in January from those of an especially strong January last year. Crop receipts year to date are at 1.55 billion pounds surprising many and leading to expectations for a final number close to 1.6 billion pounds. 2010 crop year shipments will total 1.6 billion pounds if shipments remain the same as last year for the remaining 6 months. This would draw down the year end carry out inventory to approximately 280 million pounds, down from 321 million pounds in 2009, and 414 million pounds for the 2008 crop. A loss and exempt allowance of approximately 40 million pounds is assumed. Spain has had excellent weather for its bloom this year with a potential for roughly 160 million pounds and Australia is again suffering from significant rainfall as it begins harvest. Markets are extremely quiet as all watch the 2011 bloom unfold in California.
Posted February 7, 2011 by Dan Cummings
“It was a harvest to forget!” These were the sentiments of many almond growers at the conclusion of the 2010 harvest. An exceptionally mild growing season resulted in a late and uneven maturing crop. Harvest started two weeks late in most areas and stretched out even later with frequent rains and poor drying conditions. Almonds were trucked hundreds of miles to drying facilities of all nature. Mud had to be pressure washed from harvesting equipment at regular intervals just to get wet nuts out of the field to be spread on better conditioned surfaces. Roads, concrete pads and even airport runways were covered a few inches deep in wet almonds that were then turned by hand with scoop shovels and stirred with harrows behind ATV’s to promote drying. Although tens of millions of pounds of almonds were lost, most almonds made it to handlers in the end.
The 2010 almond harvest should come in around 1.55 billion pounds, 100 million pounds less than the objective estimate in July, but nevertheless the second largest almond crop in history. Shipments have been strong at just over 800 million pounds for the first five months, up 11.3% over last year to date. China is 12% ahead of last year with already 120 million pounds, India up 28% at 55 million pounds and the Middle East up a whopping 41% at 91 million pounds! Domestic shipments are up almost 17% at just over 218 million pounds. Western Europe has been a little slow out of the gates this year, down 8% at 197 million pounds, waiting for the late harvested pollenizers and dragging their heals in light of rising prices. Consequently, Western European needs are relatively lightly covered going into the spring which bodes well for continued strong shipment levels as they become more active buyers.
Market activity is somewhat quiet as immediate needs are covered for buyers and all await bloom. There is some limited Nonpareil trading at an unusually large spread of $2.05 to $2.30 to the grower as a few anxious sellers try to draw down their uncommitted inventory in advance of bloom 2011. Carmels are trading at $1.75 and California varieties at $1.70 to the Grower. New crop(2011) offers are few and at levels 20 to 30 cents below old crop. There is some discussion in the trade of continued rainfall and flooding in Australia as they draw close to harvest.
December 2010 was the second wettest on record in Fresno since 1878! This was true of many other valley locations in stark contrast to the La Nina weather condition forecasts. Bakersfield received more rain in December than its average annual rainfall. This unusual precipitation has been explained a result of the coincidence of “La Nina”, the “Pacific Decadal Oscillation” and the “Arctic Oscillation.” Go figure! January has been mostly dry with temperatures at the end of the month and into February well above normal. Buds are developing rapidly with this warm weather (70 degree plus temperatures) but, unfortunately, a return to cold and wet weather is forecast for the middle of February.
Posted September 23, 2010 by Dan Cummings
Almond harvest is indeed late and has been difficult for many with very uneven ripening of fruit. Two rain events in Northern California have made harvest in this region even more problem ridden. It is noteworthy that as we approach the last week of September significant Nonpareil acreage in the northern San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento Valley has still not been shaken! Nonpareil yields in the Southern San Joaquin Valley are running roughly 10% ahead of last year, nearly even-to-down a bit in the Sacramento Valley, and down 10 to 25% in the Central and Northern San Joaquin Valley. This result is far short of the predicted 18% increase in Nonpareil yield statewide.
Almond prices have firmed as harvest progresses and confidence builds that the NASS estimate of 1.65 billion pounds overstates what this crop will eventually achieve. Prices on Nonpareil to growers are in the $2.15 per pound range, with Carmel at around $1.75 and California’s at $1.65. Product quality thus far has been very good with isolated exceptions on rejects and some areas with higher moisture kernels. Larger kernels have indeed been the rule so far and this bodes well for the sales versatility of product offerings, i.e., larger kernels are generally preferred, thus easier to sell and command a higher price.
The August Position report showed an increase in shipments of 1.4% over last year and a new record. This success was carried by an impressive 17.2% increase in domestic shipments which more than offset a 5.8% decline in export sales. Shipments to China and the Middle East have started out even stronger than last year, up 70% and 39% for the first month of the new crop year, while Western Europe lagged behind 24%. There was considerable re-selling of almonds last year in China and if strong shipment numbers continue to China in coming months this is likely to be the case again this year. Meanwhile, Western Europe has a lot of almonds to buy which should bolster future export shipment numbers once the late harvesting crop becomes available. California ended the 2009 crop year with a carry out of 321 million pounds, down 22.35% from 414 million pounds the previous year. With total shipments for the year at 1.472 billion pounds, this year’s carry in represents 22% of last year’s shipments.
Finally, California is transitioning from a moderate to strong El Nino to a moderately strong La Nina. This suggests above normal fall and winter precipitation for Northern California, near normal for Central California and below normal for Southern California. Unfortunately, all of California may be drier than normal mid-winter through spring to the extent past history repeats itself.
These same weather conditions are responsible for a harvest starting date roughly two weeks later than normal and the latest in decades. Nonpareil almonds are ripening very unevenly in the Northern San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys with dry nuts on the outside of the trees and “greenies” on the interior. Pollinators continue to advance and will soon be ready also. These conditions are creating a myriad of problems for farmers that are already concerned about the late start date and fears of fall rains. Simply put, there are an awfully lot of almonds that will need to be harvested in a very short time period!
The California almond industry continues to achieve record shipments domestically month after month with rare exception. However, the last four months export sales have declined 23.77 percent relative to last year. 2009 shipments finished the year at 1.471 billion pounds, up 6% from last year, and more than the 2009 saleable crop of 1.364 billion pounds, leaving a carryout of ~ 306 million pounds down from 413 million pounds the previous year.
The last two months have seen dramatic price fluctuations for almonds. After a surprisingly large Objective estimate and disappointing June position report, prices fell 40 to 50 cents from existing trading levels. Thankfully this precipitous decline lasted less than two weeks before prices began a sustained recovery. Today, new crop Nonpareil are trading between $1.70 and $1.90 to the grower, Carmel at just under $1.60, California’s at $1.40 to $1.50 and Standards at $1.30. Early speculation is that Nonpareil may be coming in a little lighter than predicted and prices could firm further if expectations for the ultimate crop size declines accordingly.
Posted June 24, 2010 by Dan Cummings
The May Subjective Almond Crop estimate came in at 1.53 billion pounds, a little higher than most believed. It is important to remember that this subjective forecast is based on telephone interviews with only 317 of the State’s roughly 6,000 growers and represents 28% of the total bearing acreage. The 2010 Objective Almond Crop Forecast derived from field sampling of trees and measuring of nuts, will be announced on July 8. Unusually mild weather has delayed this release by more than a week as the almond crop is maturing later than normal.
Rainfall this past season was normal in most areas helping to leach salt accumulations in the orchards for the first time in a few years. Reservoir levels have improved significantly and snowpack runoff is forecast at 116% to 124% of normal. Very mild temperatures thus far, in conjunction with much improved water supplies for most, have resulted in ideal conditions for vegetative growth. Growers have dramatically increased their cultural inputs relative to the last few years as improved prices mid-winter gave encouragement to improved crop values. So the big question waiting to be resolved by the July 8 Objective Crop Forecast and eventual crop is, “Do the trees look so good because the growing conditions have been excellent, or do they look so green and lush because they haven’t much crop load stress?!”
Unfortunately, prices have fallen back more than 60 cents from January highs. Standards now at around $1.30 to the grower, Nonpareils at $1.90 and little premium above California’s for “preferred” varieties like Carmel. After nearly a year of record shipments each month (September missed by 2.1% and February was off last year’s record by .8%), the last two months shipments have been disappointing to some in the industry and a reason to push prices down by buyers. April was down 5.5% and May was down 23%, each from last year. Nevertheless, these last two month’s shipments were the second best in history and much of last year’s crop was shipped late in the crop year after the global financial meltdown in the fall of 2008. 40% of all almonds grown in the US are shipped to Europe and the Euro is falling against the dollar, the Chinese have been re-selling into India and the Middle East, etc. Reasons abound why almond prices have declined so much.
In the end, I am hard pressed to explain current prices on the basis of almond supplies and consumption. This leads me to conclude there are an excess of sellers! Many handlers are eager to clear out their inventories, clean out their facilities and go on vacation before harvest starts mid-August. Call pool growers have cash flow needs, handlers have cash flow needs to final on their grower pools, and trading has been very light. Prices have risen a dime or so in the last week, this is reflected in the previous paragraphs price information. So, perhaps weak sellers are thinning out. Europeans are big players in the almond industry setting early prices and they covet their August vacations. Look for a flurry of activity once the Objective Estimate is released July 8 as these savvy traders, and others around the world, will want a position on almonds before harvest starts. It’s likely to be a very compressed marketing year with a late crop, late start to sales, and the potential of a large crop on the horizon with very healthy and rested trees.
Posted April 30, 2010 by Dan Cummings
Almond shipments remain strong, meaning there will be a somewhat small carry-out of 2009 crop to supplement a modest 2010 crop. Shipments for the 2009/10 crop year are now expected to conclude in July at 1.5 to 1.525 billion pounds. Looking ahead to this year’s harvest, one large almond trader recently announced their crop estimate at 1.44 billion pounds and most in the industry thought this was a reasonable estimate. The 2010 subjective almond crop estimate will be released next Thursday, May 6 at noon. The May Almond Board position report is scheduled for release Tuesday, May 11. The National Agricultural Statistics Service announced today that bearing acres in 2010 are 740,000, up 20,000 acres from last year and with and additional roughly 70,000 acres non-bearing.
Posted March 7, 2010 by Dan Cummings
January shipments of almonds set another record at 122 million pounds, up 32% from last year. Shipments have set new records each of the last 12 months; save September alone which in itself was only off 2% from last year’s record. Estimates are now that California will ship nearly 1.55 billion pounds this year and end the year with a carry out of less than 200 million pounds, down from last year’s carry out of 413 million pounds. Unfortunately, much of these record shipments have come about at some of the lowest prices in the last ten years. Interestingly enough, prices have softened roughly 20 cents per pound from my last report with little volume trading as growers and buyers consider this year’s bloom and more sellers than buyers at these much improved prices. Even then, the remaining 25% or so of the crop to be sold should raise the return to growers a dime or more over last year’s below-the- cost-of -production return.
This has been one of the most interesting almond blooms I have experienced. The El Niño weather pattern and a split storm trough vacillating in its entry into California resulted in weather forecasts with substantial changes day to day. Bee strength and availability was somewhat weaker than past years. I have heard bee colony audits reflect a decrease in average strength of roughly 1.5 frames per colony. There are numerous reports of collapsing hives and hives that did not build during the almond bloom. There were also beekeepers with some of the best hives they have had in years. Overall, the quality of hives in almond orchards had the greatest variability seen in recent history. This, coupled with the poorest pollinating weather since 2005, and forecasts of less than optimal post bloom weather, leaves a big question mark as to the potential for the 2010 almond crop, although most growers are still optimistic.
Bee hours assessed as the number of hours over 55 degrees, without rain and winds (less than 15 miles per hour) during Nonpareil bloom were down from last year across the State with the exception of Chico and Arbuckle. Nonpareil bloom days were assessed at 12 to 13 days, down from a high of 17 to 19 days in 2006 and an average of 14 days. The Sacramento Valley received bee flight hours of 92 to 117% of last year; Northern San Joaquin Valley 72 to 81% of last year; Central San Joaquin Valley 55 to 75% of last year; and Southern San Joaquin Valley 68 to 76% of last year. Nonpareil bud set was off a bit with most pollinators showing very strong bloom. Again, most growers feel somewhat optimistic about their chances for a decent crop with some concern in the Central San Joaquin Valley. All attention is now on getting fertilizer on the trees, managing disease with the damp conditions and hope for improved post bloom weather which has proven to be so critical for crop retention and development. Blue Diamond posts a running commentary on the bloom and crop development at http://www.bluediamond.com/applications/in-the-field/index.cfm?navid=101.
Posted January 27, 2010 by Dan Cummings
December shipments of almonds were over 147 million pounds, up a whopping 57.5% from last year, more than 50% greater than any previous December and truly a remarkable feat! China has now surpassed 100 million pounds, more than all of last year, and in just 5 months. Almond Board position reports can be found at: http://www.almondboard.com/AboutTheAlmondBoard/Pages/ResearchStats.aspx.
The value of almonds rose roughly 20 cents per pound across the board after these numbers were released. However, little trading activity is taking place during this traditionally quiet time in the market as new crop bloom is approaching and all eyes are on the weather.
Posted December 14, 2009 by Dan Cummings
November shipments of almonds were a record 145 million pounds which was 23% more than last year and 12% more than the previous record set in November 2007. The industry has now shipped 61 million pounds more in the first 4 months of this crop year, or 12%, than any previous crop year. This is, in part, due to the favorable 2010 crop profile with more Nonpareil and large count pollenizer’s than expected which complements nicely the large carryout of small count standards from last year. Prices have climbed steadily since harvest.
Unfortunately, much of the 2009 crop was sold at prices lower than today’s market and returns for the 2009 crop will likely not be much improved over 2008 returns from most handlers. The 2008 crop was sold into a declining market and 2009 crop sales started near the bottom and continued in a rising market. Grower prices are roughly $2.00 to $2.20 for Nonpareil depending on size, pollenizer’s have risen to as much as $1.70, with hard shells closing a huge gap to be priced nearly with other pollenizer’s or roughly $1.60. This dramatic closing of the spread between Nonpareil and pollenizer’s is very welcome for growers with disproportionately greater percentages of non-Nonpareil varieties!
Growers are reviewing their returns and contemplating another year of potentially expensive water. Growers are also concerned about accumulating sodium levels in the soil in many parts of the State. Cash flow is very tight for many, and once-routine operating bank loans are now far more difficult to secure.
Posted October 18, 2009 by Dan Cummings.
Harvest is 98% completed in the field with a few wet Monterrey, Carmel and Fritz left to be recovered. Most in the industry seem to think the crop will come in around the 1.35 billion pound mark set by the National Agricultural Statistics Service back in late June. Nonpareil are running a little above expectations and pollinators a little below. This is welcome news to almond handlers. September almond shipments totaled 134 million pounds, down only slightly from last year’s record 137 million pounds.
Field buying of almonds is quieter than at any time in recent memory for this time of the year. Grower prices are $1.90/lb. for Nonpareil, $1.40 Carmel, $1.15 - $1.20/California, $1.10 for hard-shells.
The industry is eagerly awaiting India to enter the market in earnest having only purchased a little less than two thirds as many almonds year-to-date as this time last year. Nonpareil and other “in-shell” varieties lie in stockpiles to see if the in-shell market in India picks up. China is off to a strong start two months into the season with an increase in shipments of 80%.
Growers are reviewing their returns and contemplating another year of potentially expensive water. Growers are also concerned about accumulating sodium levels in the soil in many parts of the State. Cash flow is very tight for many, and once-routine operating bank loans are now far more difficult to secure.
Posted September 9, 2009 by Dan Cummings.
Almond prices to growers have firmed to the range of $2.00 per pound for Nonpareil and $.90 to $1.25 for pollinators with the Carmel and large count Monterrey varieties at the higher end of this range and small count standards (mostly hard shell varieties) at the low end.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Posted August 1, 2009 by Dan Cummings.
There is often a lot of confusion regarding almond prices. First, prices to "the Trade" from Handlers are different than prices returned to the Grower after the Handler takes their cut. Second, there is currently a profound two tiered market in almond prices with Nonpareil receiving one price and pollinators receiving a much lower price. Today, offers to Growers for 2009 crop are in the range of Nonpareil at $1.75 per pound, Carmel at $1.10 per pound and California's (the vast majority of pollinator's) at $.85 per pound. Thus, if growers have half Nonpareil and half pollinators of equal yield, then the value of their almonds are worth an average price of $1.30 per pound.