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Nonpareil kernel prices decline as sellers push to clear 2021 crop

August 3, 2022

Assessed Nonpareil kernel prices fell in the global almond market the week ending Tuesday as California’s new crop year started and inconsistent near-term demand challenged efforts to sell product that still remains from the previous crop. 

The bulk of trades, bids, and offers reported to Stratamarkets in the July 26 to August 2 assessment period were for 2021 crop. Most of Tuesday’s assessed prices, therefore, reflect 2021 crop trade activity.

Prompt shipment NPX 27/30 and larger kernels showed losses from 9 cents to 11 cents on the week. Prices for STD5 and SSR-grade kernel also lost ground. The moves weakened the Stratamarkets Almond Index, which fell 5 cents to end the period at $2.07/lb FAS, its lowest level since February.

“We’re seeing some desperation in [2021] crop,” a California packer said on Tuesday.

In other developments:

  • California’s 2022-2023 crop year started on Monday, but trade activity for the new crop showed little sign of ramping up.
  • The NPIS edible meat price premium to NPX 27/30 increased as inshell prices for prompt shipment stayed flat.
  • The assessed STD5 price fell to a new low for a second consecutive week.

STD5 and SSR

Stratamarkets assessed STD5 at a new low of $1.62/lb FAS, down a penny on the week, as all assessed SSR-grade items also fell.

Prices for STD5 hovered in the $1.60-$1.65/lb FAS range during the week with minimal buying interest from Europe. By Tuesday, the item was offered at $1.63/lb FAS with the most competitive reported bid at $1.60/lb FAS and a trade at $1.62/lb FAS.

Prices for 2022 crop STD5 for Q4 shipment also fell with offers reported at the close of the assessment period at $1.72/lb FAS and $1.73/lb FAS. A trade was reported but not verified at $1.72/lb FAS for Q4 shipment. 

The downward move in prompt-shipment STD5 prices followed a sharper decline the previous week as packers sought to offload 2021 crop ahead of the approaching harvest and buyers showed little inclination to purchase, citing ample stocks in Europe and delayed shipments still to arrive in the region.

In recent months, some packers have been sending unsold containers to European ports such as Valencia where they attempt to sell them with the freight cost bolted on. A U.K.-based trader said the strategy has met with mixed success due to the dearth of buyers.

“They can probably redirect [unsold containers] to a bonded warehouse, but it’s not ideal to sit on goods without having a destination purchaser,” the trader said.

A Spanish nut processor said his clients are in no hurry to book shipments given high inventory levels and the possibility of further price falls, adding that he’s covered until nearly the end of 2022 and off the market.

“We’re receiving offers every day, but we’re not responding with active inquiries or counter-bids because we really don’t need any quantities right now,” the Spanish processor said.

The euro has improved from its recent 20-year lows against the U.S. dollar, offering some respite for buyers who say the greenback’s strength has reduced their purchasing power.  By Monday, the euro was trading above $1.02, two weeks after reaching parity with the dollar.

But a Germany-based processor said the euro’s weakness continued to be the main issue affecting European buying, explaining that re-sellers were adding around 5% to their offers to local buyers to turn a profit.

“When we give out the offer to smaller factories, they know it will be a different price but it’s still more expensive than they expect,” he said. “That’s one of the main reasons why people are holding on to their purchases. The thinking is that if the euro-dollar rate improves, they can go and buy a bit cheaper.”

A U.K.-based trader said offers from California had thinned in recent weeks: “I’m not sure if it’s because of the holiday season or whether sellers understand there is no real interest and are hesitant to send out new offers and potentially lower the market further.”

The STD5 price decline has blunted speculative positional trading, market sources said. Even back-to-back traders said the profit margins from a STD5 sell-on trade were not enough to cover costs. STD5 is the among the most actively traded items in the almond market.

SSR grades are likely to account for a large proportion of this year’s carry-out but interest for those items from Europe, the main buyer of these grades, is threadbare, sources said.

Inshell

Prompt-shipment prices for NPIS and INIS remained unchanged on the week even as market participants said sellers continued to offer unsold containers in transit to India and demand from India and China remained unsteady.

A broker in India said there was no shortage of 2021 crop inshell supply, noting that he received an offer on Saturday for 10 containers of sized inshell already in transit to the country.

“There is a decent amount of afloat cargo,” the broker said, adding that prices were difficult to pin down with packers offering wide ranges and wide bid/offer spreads.

The NPISEM premium to NPX 27/30 increased 11 cents on the week to 27 cents, a three-week high. That premium is likely to draw sellers to the inshell market with kernel prices struggling.

The INISEM price premium to INX 23/25 narrowed on the week to 4 cents compared with 9 cents the prior week. It’s the tightest premium since July 12 when it narrowed to a penny. The premium hasn’t exceeded 10 cents since June.

Trades for 2022 crop NPIS for August and September shipment ranged from $178/lb FAS to $1.85/lb FAS. On a differential basis, new crop NPIS is trading from parity to 2021 crop to a seven-cent premium. 

Extra No. 1 and Supreme

The primary buying markets for Nonpareil kernel remained quiet, contributing to the price declines for those items.

On Friday, buyers in the Middle East purchased NPX 20/22 at $2.60/lb CIF Jebel Ali and $2.70/lb CIF Jebel Ali for prompt shipment. Traders put the U.S. West-Coast to U.A.E. freight cost at around 10 cents/lb. Three additional NPX 20/22 trades were reported at $2.50/lb FAS for prompt shipment.

Demand from Japan and China remained unusually groggy for this time of the year for 2021 and 2022 crop, market sources said, suggesting that the price support those countries typically provide at the start of California’s crop year could be blunted.

By this time, buyers in Japan will typically purchase larger Nonpareil Extra-grade kernels for shipment periods staggered throughout the crop year. Demand from China, meanwhile, is usually focused now on old and new crop inshell and Nonpareil Extra-kernel for the approaching Chinese New Year, which falls on  January 22, 2023.

China’s zero-Covid policy and slowing economy could be negatively impacting almond consumption. Packers also expressed concern about how heightening geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China could impact almond demand from China.

Demand in Japan has been hampered by recent movements in the dollar to yen exchange rate. The rate declined in recent days after hitting a 24-year high in July.

Though Nonpareil kernel prices fell, INX 23/25 gained 5 cents on the week to $2.15/lb FAS. That resulted in the NPX 23/25 premium to INX 23/25 falling to 21 cents, a recent low.

Trade for Independence Extra-grade kernel appears to have shifted to 2022 crop while trade for Nonpareil Extra-grade kernels appears to remain focused on 2021 crop, a review of recent trades reported to Stratamarkets shows.

Harvest

An increasing number of packers reported receiving almonds from the 2022 crop. Not all anecdotal reports of quality were negative, as they sometimes are for almonds harvested early.

“I did take some samples from our first shakes and the quality looks fantastic,” said a packer in the southern region of the Central Valley, adding that the samples were from young Nonpareil orchards. “To shell out 10 pounds of almonds and only find two insect-damaged kernels, that was great.”

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