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Prices continue to lose ground

June 22, 2022

Inshell prices fell for the fourth consecutive stretch in the global container market the week ending Tuesday even as trading activity increased. 

The bump in inshell trading likely reflects the belief on the part of buyers that prices are at reasonable levels and time is running out to purchase for Diwali, a festival in India when almond consumption rises.

Market participants reported 22 trades for NPIS and INIS during the June 14 to June 21 assessment period, double the trades reported in the previous period.

Stratamarkets assessed NPIS on Tuesday at $1.73/lb, down 6 cents on the week. The inshell price decline contrasts with the direction prices were taking this time last year when inshell values were climbing. They peaked at $2.41/lb FAS at the end of the 2021-2022 crop year.

Nonpareil kernel prices this week were mixed, with two items showing gains and others declining or leveling. Pollenizer kernel prices were mostly down. The Stratamarkets Almond Index shed 2 cents on the week, falling to $2.10/lb FAS, down 23 cents from its year-ago level.

Europe

Prompt STD5 shipments continue to trade at multi-year lows between $1.70/lb FAS and $1.75/lb FAS, as buyers said the most recent position report from the Almond Board of California (ABC) cemented their opinion that Europe was oversupplied. 

Sources in Europe said buying was limited to short covering on the spot market because few traders were prepared to take a long-term view of market direction given the recent lack of volatility and low margins.

“Anytime we sell something we just cover it and nobody gets long,” a U.K.-based trader said. “I think this is how the whole industry’s working right now.”

A Netherlands-based trader said end-users were in “no panic” to secure supplies:

“Most of the Christmas buying has been done,” the trader said. “Pre-bought containers continue to arrive, and people are quite relaxed about the supply situation going forwards.”

SSR-grade material shipped to the region on consignment is being offered on CIF and EXW Rotterdam basis but is struggling to find buyers, a German-based buyer said.

European almond consumption has been cited as a cause for concern at recent industry gatherings, partly because of spiraling inflation and rising food prices in the region.

A U.K.-based trader said demand is slow as the holiday season begins and customers are taking time to chew through their stocks, adding that in his conversations with a major U.K. supermarket, he learned that the supermarket was about two months behind its usual average nut sales.

“Also, there’s been no change in retail pricing,” the trader added. “Consumers are not seeing any discounts on almonds.”

Market sources in Europe said they believe prices for ingredient inputs could continue to slide as packers discount current crop items to clear space ahead of harvest.

Asia

Demand from Japan remained subdued due partly to a weakening yen, participants said. On Tuesday, the yen plummeted to its lowest level against the dollar since 1998, Reuters reported.

Sellers sold some of their Japan-specification kernel to buyers in China at price levels similar to regular U.S. Extra No. 1-grade kernels. The Japan specification is a higher quality than the USDA’s U.S. Extra No. 1-grade and typically commands a 5-15 cent premium to that grade.

In the inshell market, the NPISEM price premium to NPX 27/30 fell to 7 cents, its lowest level in weeks. The INISEM premium to INX 23/25 is down to 5 cents.

Even as some market participants said the window to ship inshell to India in time for Diwali is shut, multiple sources said freight delays are easing, with sailing times for container vessels from California to India falling to 35 to 45 days. That could extend the buying period for Diwali.

“Even August shipments can reach India on time,” said an Indian trader.

However, a second Indian trader said the large volume of shipments bound for India could increase the possibility of vessel queues at trans-shipment and final destination ports, prompting new delays. It might not matter.

“There will be no shortage during Diwali even if July shipments are delayed,” the trader said.

India imported 86 million lbs in the three-month period ending May compared with just 60 million lbs during the same period last year. That could indicate more buying this year for Diwali.

New Crop

Trade for new crop is increasing, with 52 trades reported to Stratamarkets in the two weeks ending Tuesday. New crop activity will likely increase after the USDA releases the second of its two annual California almond crop forecasts next month.

The NPIS current crop price differential to new crop has collapsed to parity. It had been trading at a premium. Meanwhile, the STD5 new crop premium to current crop has narrowed to 2 cents from 5 cents. 

New crop sales into Europe have been slow, with most buying interest focused on the fourth quarter rather than Q1 2023.

This is because buyers in the European Union want to ensure that shipments they receive early in 2023 are subject to a customs duty reduction from 3.5% to 2%, applicable to the first 85,000 metric tons (189.5 million lbs) to arrive in the single market from California that year, a German marzipan buyer said.

The customs duty quota is typically cleared by the end of the first quarter. If shipping problems persist, it might not clear until the end of April 2023.

“That’s why people are asking for November, December shipment,” the German buyer said. “They don’t want to ask for Q1 because that probably wouldn’t arrive until about May and miss out on the 2% duty.”

Looking Ahead

The ABC is scheduled to release its June 2022 position report on July 12. Exporters believe June shipments could hit 260 million lbs, which would be a record for the month and up 18% from last June.

Exporters in California have noted the shift in shipment timings that has occurred in the two recent crop years, with the four-month May to August period at the end of the crop year now replacing the four-month September to December period as the busiest shipment period.

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