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Inshell, NPX prices improve as old crop drags on other items

August 24, 2022

Inshell prices firmed in the global almond market the week ending Tuesday after two consecutive weeks of declines on demand from India and China.

The move came as California sellers worked to booked business for new and old crop inshell with the 2022 crop harvest underway. Stratamarkets assessed NPIS 4-cents higher on the week and INIS 3-cents higher.

New crop trade activity remained largely focused on Nonpareil and Independence inshell and kernel items throughout the August 17 to August 23 assessment period. California growers harvest those varieties first followed by pollinizers.

NPX kernel prices also improved, with NPX 25/27 gaining 8 cents on the week. However, prices for most assessed new crop items showed marginal gains and losses as unsold 2021 crop weighed on prices.

“At the end of the day, the uncommitted is the problem, and it’s the hardest to move on because most of it is in the call,” a California-based trader said on Friday. “It’s anchoring the entire market. Guys haven’t moved their sold position in the past month – some not in the last three.”

That view was affirmed by several packers who said they still had multiple containers of 2021 crop left to sell in their call pools.

“The last three years have been so difficult for growers and a lot of them are reluctant to sell right now,” said a California packer on Friday, adding that dozens of 2021 crop containers were left to sell in his call pool.

Demand from India and China helped support prices. However, buyers in other regions said concerns that almond prices hadn’t found a floor were preventing them from purchasing.

In other developments:

  • The Stratamarkets Almond Index lost 2 cents to end the period at $2.04/lb FAS, down 91 cents from its year-ago level.
  • New crop STD5 prices fell 4 cents on the week to $1.64/lb FAS on languid demand from Europe.
  • The NPX 23/25 price premium to CTS 23/25 widened to 46 cents, which could bolster demand for the latter item as buyers look for less-expensive substitutes, market participants said.

STD5 and SSR

Trade for 2022 crop STD5 and SSR-grade items remained thin throughout the week.

On Tuesday, the item was offered at $1.65/lb FAS for October to December shipment but failed to find buying interest at that level, a trader reported. Earlier in the period, the item traded at $1.65/lb FAS for January to March 2023 shipment.

Trade was more lively for 2021 crop.

Old crop STD5 traded from $1.52/lb FAS to $1.54/lb FAS during the assessment period with an offer left at $1.55/lb FAS at the close. Old crop STD5 prices are now down 96 cents from their crop-year high of $2.49/lb FAS on September 14, 2022.

Prices for old crop SSR-grade items also fell with differentials between sizes converging. CTTSSR 27/30 traded at $1.61/lb FAS and $1.63/lb FAS. The larger CTSSSR 23/25 traded only slightly higher at $1.64/lb FAS.

Demand for California almonds from Europe remained quiet with companies there relying on local inventory and some buyers still on summer holiday. On Monday, the euro fell to a new low against the dollar, Bloomberg reported, further crimping demand.

However, a U.K.-based trader said he saw an uptick in inquiries from Europe on Tuesday.

“On a more positive side, I have two buyers in Spain with demand for Independence and Carmel, 20/22 and 23/25, for prompt shipment as soon as possible for the new crop,” the trader said. “There is some demand happening.”

Inshell

Trade for unsized NPIS ranged from $1.60/lb FAS to $1.70/lb FAS with prices firming as the assessment period progressed. Though the bulk of trade focused on new crop inshell, sellers continued to offer unsold, 2021 crop containers in transit to India.

“ A lot of afloat containers are being offered for August shipment,” an importer in India said on Monday. “Those containers are on the sea and packers are interested in giving discounts.”

Demand for sized NPIS was stronger compared with demand for unsized, perhaps because it’s easier to sell sized NPIS in India’s local market, said a broker based in India. The broker said the sized price premium to unsized would need to widen substantially to attract more demand from India.

“Unless there is a huge price differential of probably 10 cents, then why should I take the risk of buying the unsized cargo,” the broker said.

NPIS 27/30 traded several times at roughly 3-cent premiums to unsized, with larger-size NPIS commanding higher premiums.

Buyers in India said they’d prefer to see 2022 crop quality from California first hand before purchasing additional quantities of new crop inshell. While some buyers said they expect kernel sizes from unsized 2022 crop NPIS from California to be a 30 count-per-ounce or smaller, other buyers said the sizing and quality from new crop inshell were still unclear. 

The first new crop inshell containers from California are not expected to arrive in India until the first week of October.

“We are really not sure if the quality will be good, bad, or next level – very good,” a buyer in India said on Monday. “Without seeing the quality of the new crop, we cannot decide the price.”

Market participants in India said they’ve seen few INIS offers from California in recent weeks. 

“There are far fewer offers of Independence than anticipated,” said the broker based in India referred to earlier. “Maybe the prices are too sloppy for growers to participate at these levels.”

Several California packers had expressed caution about making INIS this year due to what they described as disappointing INIS price premiums to kernel during the previous crop year.  

Extra No. 1 and Supreme

Extra-grade items showed mixed results during the week.  NPX 25/27 gained 8 cents on active trade while INX 23/25 lost 10 cents on the week. Other assessed NPX kernel items stayed flat or showed incremental moves.

Assessed Carmel Type Supreme items showed sharper losses, with CTS 23/25 and CTS 27/30 falling 8 cents and 10 cents, respectively, on the week.

Demand from the Middle East, a key market for Extra and Supreme-grade almonds, remained tepid. 

A trader in the United Arab Emirates said the strengthening U.S. dollar against most foreign currencies, rising geopolitical concerns, and sputtering economies throughout the globe were making it difficult for traders in the Middle East and elsewhere to buy from California and resell to other markets.

“All of these factors are not supporting the market,” the trader said on Tuesday in a text message.

In Turkey, traders are hesitating to purchase new crop from California due to concerns that prices have yet to find a floor.

“Almonds are slow here because people believe prices at the origin will go down,” a Turkey-based trader said on Monday. “People don’t want to take stocks. They want to buy hand-to-mouth because they believe they can get it cheaper on the next trade.”

Despite prompt demand from the Middle East, the U.K.-based trader said he believes his clients in the Middle East will wait  for prices to rebound before committing.

“I have some big buyers coming to me for 20, 30 containers for different products, but they see the market doing down and they don’t want to buy, even though I tell them, ‘Hey, now is the time to cover,’” the trader said. “The problem is, once the prices hit the floor, it’s going to create a bullish market, and the buyers are going to lose the moment.  So maybe now is the moment.”