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STD5 prices decline in final days of crop year

July 27, 2022

Prices for STD5 fell to new lows in the global almond container market the week ending Tuesday as other items firmed.

On Tuesday, participants reported multiple trades for STD5 at $1.60/lb FAS and $1.65/lb FAS for August and September shipment. Stratamarkets assessed the item at $1.63/lb FAS based on the trades, its lowest mark in recent years.

But countering the STD5 fall, Nonpareil kernel prices showed modest gains on thin trade. That helped the Stratamarkets Almond Index finish the week unchanged at $2.12/lb FAS.

Participants noted a lack of demand throughout the week from most global buying regions. “When you do get firm bids, they’re pretty low, and California doesn’t want to sell at those levels,” said a Stanislaus County packer.

In other developments:

  • Backlogs at the Port of Oakland could take weeks to clear after terminals re-opened on Saturday following a shutdown, a port spokesman said on Tuesday.
  • Harvest began in California with the new crop expected to reach some packers by the end of this week.
  • With bloom days away in Australia, almond growers there continued to press for softer restrictions on bee movements imposed following the discovery of a destructive parasite.

STD5 & SSR

Tuesday marked the second consecutive week of lower STD5 prices following a brief gain after the USDA adjusted its forecast of California’s upcoming crop downward by 200 million lbs. Assessed SSR-grade items showed incremental gains and losses.

The fall in the STD5 price follows reports from traders and buyers of weak European demand and limited storage space amid the euro’s weakness against the U.S. dollar. Substantial stocks of STD5 and SSR-grade kernels are sitting in European storage facilities, market participants said.

“All our warehouses are full,” said one trader, adding that limited storage space was complicating his firm’s ability to buy from California.

The trader noted a lack of liquidity in the market: “Both sides have a position they’ve deemed worth waiting for,” he said.

European market sources said that despite prompt prices coming under pressure, packers were largely withdrawn from the market.

With new crop STD5 for October to December shipment trading at $1.77/lb FAS during the week, a German-based buyer said he believed the existing 10-cent new crop to current crop premium could fall. A second Germany-based buyer said delays shipping the current crop combined with price declines have  convinced him to wait before purchasing new crop.

“Realistically, if I buy current crop for early November shipment, it will arrive in February so why should I bother about new crop?” he said.

Inshell

Current crop inshell prices softened as sellers and buyers reported multiple trades for unsold containers already in transit to India. As a result, importers’ attention has shifted from the FAS to the CIF market, where containers can be secured quicker and with less risk.

Current crop NPIS trades averaged $1.78/lb FAS during the assessment period after normalizing trades to the assessed specification. Stratamarkets assessed NPIS at that level based on the trades.

Late on Tuesday, however, participants reported current crop inshell offers at lower levels of $1.75/lb FAS and $1.80/lb CIF, both for 27/30. The lower offers suggest current crop prices could continue to fall.

The quantity of unsold containers bound for India is unknown. But a broker based in India said he believes the quantity is significant.

“We’ve seen this afloat container situation happen before, but the quantity this time is huge,” the broker said on Tuesday. “It’s forcing importers to re-strategize their business models. Why should they take three-month positions and stress themselves when they can get these loads today, without the time and currency risk?”

Though inshell prices fell on the week, packers are continuing to secure premiums for inshell. On Tuesday, the NPISEM premium to NPX 27/30 finished at 16 cents, not far from its recent 12-month average of 22 cents. The premium is likely to continue motivating sellers even as inshell prices edge lower.

New crop demand from India remained light last week with new crop inshell expected to be ready to ship to India beginning August 15. “Indians are not rushing to buy new crop,” a trader wrote in an email.

Part of the reason is the large volume of current crop inshell that has been shipped to India recently as importers seek to ensure supply ahead of an earlier Diwali.

In Q2 2022, California shipped 98.8 million lbs of inshell to India, more than double the amount shipped during the corresponding 2021 period, according to the latest data from the Almond Board of California (ABC).

Nonpareil, Independence & Carmel Type

Assessed Nonpareil kernel prices showed marginal gains on the week as trade for the items remained light. NPX 30/32 showed the strongest improvement, increasing 7 cents on the week.

A European trader noted demand from the Middle East for a few loads of new crop NPX 20/22 for January-June shipment, but a paucity of offers from California on the item.

“Packers are saying they can’t see the crop yet and they’re expecting similar average sizes to last year which means the larger sizes might be limited,” the trader said.

Nonpareil Extra-grade kernels are trading at significant premiums to Carmel Type Supreme-grade kernels, perhaps one reason why market participants noted light demand for Nonpareil kernel throughout the week. 

This time last year, the NPX 27/30 premium to CTS 27/30 was 28 cents. On Tuesday, the premium reached 51 cents.

While the items aren’t completely interchangeable, that gap could be encouraging some buyers to switch to the less-expensive Carmel Type Supreme when possible. CTS 27/30 gained 3 cents on the week while CTS 23/25 stayed flat.

Trade for Independence kernel was also light. However, one packer predicted trade activity for new crop Independence could begin to increase prior to other items. That’s because packers can secure better prices for Independence kernel compared with STD5 and SSR-grade kernels, and they’re more open to offering it because the supply of Independence looks more abundant than Nonpareil.

“The only thing that has any chance of buyers and sellers matching up in a meaningful way is new crop Independence,” he said.

Logistics & Harvest

It will likely take weeks to clear the backlog of containers that need to be shipped from the Port of Oakland following a weeklong shutdown, said Robert Bernardo, director of communications at the port.

Exporters expressed frustration over the closing of the terminals, which re-opened on Saturday. Some packers said they managed to ship limited containers during the closure.

“It was slow, but we still had stuff get through, it just took way longer,” said a San Joaquin County Packer. “It was a good three days of really limited shipping.”

The shutdown is expected to negatively impact July shipments. The ABC is scheduled to release July shipment numbers on August 12 in the July 2022 position report, the final report for the 2021-2022 crop year.

Packers said they expected to begin receiving almonds from the new crop by the end of this week with harvesting in some areas of the state underway. They said most of the early product is coming from water-stressed orchards.

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