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Inshell trade activity perks but selling pressure weighs on prices

August 17, 2022

NPIS prices weakened in the global almond market the week ending Tuesday as the push to sell old and new crop inventory outweighed a bump in inshell demand from India and China.

“Almonds are coming out of the hullers really quickly and packers want to get it in and get it out right away,” a California-based trader said on Tuesday. “Inshell is the hot item and Nonpareil kernels are pretty active, too.”

The assessed NPIS price lost 5 cents with INIS flat on the week. The NPIS premium to INIS narrowed 5 cents to 19 cents.

The NPIS price decline came as a new shipment report showed a 67% month-on-month drop in exports to India in July. Some market observers thought the curtailment would lift prices by spurring demand from India, which buys consistently from California throughout the year and is the state’s largest export market.

The Stratamarkets Almond Index improved a penny to $2.06/lb FAS. The increase was primarily the result of the shift on Tuesday to 2022 crop trade activity as the basis for all of Stratamarkets’ weekly price assessments. 

In other developments:

  • New sales and shipments from California declined in July, according to the July position report released on Friday by the Almond Board of California.
  • India, China, and the Middle East emerged as the primary demand regions for California as sellers focused on inshell and NPX kernel.
  • Prices for 2021 crop STD5 and SSR continued to fall as sellers worked to find buyers for unsold inventory.

STD5 and SSR

Trade activity for new crop STD5 and SSR items remained thin with many European buyers on holiday and an abundance of old crop in the local market. Buyers in the region said high stocks at destination ports needed to be moved before higher volume purchases could be made.

Stratamarkets assessed new crop STD5 at $1.68/lb FAS for Q4 shipment. STD5 trade activity for the Q1 2023 shipment period was seen at about 5 cents higher compared with the Q4 period. 

A Germany-based marzipan producer said he was mostly covered until the end of Q4 and therefore had little incentive to book forward shipments, particularly for 2022 crop, which he said would be unlikely to reach northern Europe until the New Year due to shipping bottlenecks.

New crop STD5 price premiums to 2021 crop STD5 were seen at about 10 cents. Old crop STD5 traded at $1.58/lb FAS with an unconfirmed trade at $1.55/lb FAS and bids at lower levels.

Packers that sent afloat containers to destination ports in Europe are selling them at a discount before they arrive or organize storage options, sources said.

As old crop STD5 prices continued to fall to new lows, some European traders said they believed 2022 crop STD5 prices were overvalued, particularly for end-users who intend to grind the product, such as marzipan and paste producers.

“I don’t see the logic in paying $1.71 or more for new crop when I can buy prompt at $1.60,” said a U.K.-based trader.  “At the end of the day, it’s almonds you’re going to put into a processor. It doesn’t matter what crop it is.”

However, a source at a European processor said companies that use STD5 for blanching and dicing would be less likely to buy dated material even if the current crop discount is attractive.

The U.K.-based trader said that with the 2022 carry-in at 837 million lbs, it could take until the end of the calendar year to deplete. He said the record volume amounted to the equivalent of around four “very strong” months of shipments from California.

Last year, California moved 873 million lbs in the August-November period, which the trader said matched this year’s carry-over “when you also take into account all the unsold material afloat to ports.”

Inshell

Trade activity for inshell increased during the week with sellers in California eager to clear warehouse space to make room for the new crop and better demand from India and China.

Though inshell price premiums worsened, inshell economics continued to look better for sellers compared with most kernel items, which helped keep inshell selling interest active. The NPIS edible meat price premium to NPX 27/30 contracted 6 cents to end the week at 12 cents.

On Tuesday, a trader said he transacted about 20 loads of unsized NPIS from $1.60/lb FAS to $1.62/lb FAS. Buyers in India reported purchasing at similar levels. Prices for sized NPIS were reported at significant premiums to unsized. 

“It was the best position report I have ever seen,” a broker in India said on Saturday. “This is what India wanted, actually.”

The news of the reduced supply heading to India bolstered prices in the country’s local market. But the rally faded quickly. On Tuesday, local prices returned to pre-report levels.  

“A flood of offers came to the local market after the report as people tried to catch the bull run,” a buyer in India said on Tuesday. “But there were too many offers, and the market tumbled today by 3% from the highs.”

Market participants said they expected to see fewer new crop inshell containers shipped from California in August compared with last year due to harvest delays. In some regions of the state, harvest activities were starting about a week later compared with last year, sources said.

Participants said that given current logistics timelines and the potential for delays, July is the last month inshell shipments from California can reach India in time for Diwali. “There’s now a premium for any loads that can be used for Diwali demand,” an Indian trader said.

Stratamarkets assessed NPIS at $1.61/lb FAS, down 17 cents from the start of the month and down 82 cents from its year-ago level.

Extra No. 1 and Supreme

Demand for NPX kernel items from China and the Middle East increased during the week. China is typically active in the market this time of the year to buy for Chinese New Year, which falls on January 22, 2023.

In addition to inshell, sources said NPX kernel items were among the few items grower could sell at price levels sufficient to cover their costs of production.

Most of the NPX trade activity focused on NPX 27/30, but multiple trades were also reported for other NPX items. Packers will begin shipping new crop NPX kernel times in two weeks.

“New crop kernel is starting to pick up a little bit,” said the California-based trader, adding that it remained a challenging market to read. “I don’t where this market is headed. It’s tough to tell.”