Monthly walnut shipments from California beat their year-ago total for the first time in seven months in April, raising hopes among packers that shipping problems are subsiding and the carry-out could be smaller than many had once predicted.
Packers shipped 67,763 inshell equivalent (ISE) short tons in April, up 10% from a year ago, according to the California Walnut Board’s latest shipping report.
However, new monthly sales fell 42% to 47,046 ISE, the lowest since August.
Year-to-date shipments continue to improve, with 517,243 ISE shipped between September-April, reducing the on-year deficit to 13%. The deficit was 22% in December.
One packer described the report as “neither good nor bad, probably somewhere in the middle. It’s generally encouraging, and we’re making ground against a big carryout.”
He added that as well as logistical issues, the lower new monthly sales could indicate that the availability of higher-quality material is tightening.
“It’s low-value material that’s going to be the bulk of the carryover,” he said.
Earlier this year, a larger-than-estimated 2021 crop of 720,163ISE on top of a record carry-out and a sluggish shipment pace led to predictions of another record carry-out exceeding 152,000t.
However, packers now believe that with California about 86% sold and shipments gradually improving, they’re confident the carry-out will be lower.
One packer said he believed shipments for the remaining four months of the crop year will outpace those of last year given the current low-price environment and the fact many will make shipment a top priority due to the perishability of their stocks.
Inshell shipments for the month more than tripled to 26.7 million lbs although crop year-to-date shipments still lag the year-ago period by 37% at 223.4 million lbs. Declining inshell shipments to the Middle East, North Africa and Asia have been the major factor behind the slow-down.
Kernels have fared better during the eight-month period, down just 5% from a year ago at 356.1 million lbs, with increased demand from Europe largely negating falls in demand from the other key demand regions.