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September almond shipments fall, but still among best ever; few are surprised

October 13, 2021

September almond shipments from California trailed year-ago September shipments but beat same-month shipments in previous years, data from the latest Almond Board of California (ABC) position report shows.

Market participants expected the September 2021 position report, released on Tuesday, to show lower monthly shipments from California compared with last year. As a result, prices for most items fell in the days leading up to the report’s release. 

Still, sellers said the data from the latest position report was better than many expected.

“We destroyed every other year except for last year,” said a grower and packer in Madera County, referring to September shipments.

California shipped 229 million lbs in September, down 13% from last September. However, September shipments were 13% higher than September 2016 shipments, now the third-highest September shipment on record after last month.

Exports in September fell 17%, from 197 million lbs in September 2020 to 164 million lbs in September 2021. Exports to India fell 15% while exports to Western Europe fell 24%.

The drop in shipments to Western Europe indicates that buyers there are relying on local inventories and could mean that near-term demand from the region will remain lackluster as European buyers continue to draw on local inventories, a second packer said. Buyers in the region bought heavily from California earlier this year when prices were lower.

“I was a little surprised that Europe gave up its overbuying so fast,” the second packer said. “My initial take is it could mean it’s a little quieter there for the next 30 to 60 days.”

Exports to China climbed 6%, mainly on a jump in inshell shipments to the country, which doubled from 9 million lbs in September 2020 to 18 million lbs in September 2021. Kernel exports to China fell 62%.

“I was surprised how much inshell was done with China because the premiums through August were so high,” said a third packer. “Maybe China was hoping to flip and resell at higher prices.”

In other major export markets, shipments to the Middle East and to Southeast Asia, which includes Vietnam, were both down.

September crop receipts fell 3%, from 780 million lbs in September 2020 to 757 million lbs in September 2021.

The Madera County grower and packer said the drop could be an early indication that kernels from California’s 2021-2022 harvest are coming in smaller this year compared with last year. Growers and packers said unusually high temperatures this summer in California combined with challenges accessing water have reduced kernel sizes.

However, other packers said receipt data for Q4 2021 is needed before drawing sweeping conclusions about kernel sizing and the overall crop size.

“It’s too early to get excited one way or another,” said a fourth packer. “I think receipts will mean a lot more when we get into November.”

New sales in September reached 232 million lbs, down 22% from last September. California’s sold position in September was 35% assuming a 2.8 billion lb crop, slightly lower than the state’s previous 10-year average sold position of 37%.

Difficulties sending containers overseas could have stunted September shipments, market participants said. With no end in sight to the shipping problems, market participants said monthly shipping numbers from California could be volatile the remainder of the crop year with containers piling up at ports before flooding out.

“It will be a little more of a roller coaster this year than in years past,” the third packer said.

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