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Record monthly shipments and robust new sales not enough to lift market

September 14, 2022

Prices flattened in the global almond market the week ending Tuesday as the first position report of the new crop year brought good news for sellers but failed to spark a rally.

“The demand piece hasn’t kicked in at all for us,” said a Stanislaus Count packer on Monday, voicing a common refrain from sellers throughout the week. “I don’t think the report changes the fundamentals of demand.”

The Almond Board of California released the August 2022 position report on Friday. It showed record August shipments, healthy new monthly sales, and a reduction in month year-on-year crop receipts – all bullish trends. (See story on Pg 4).

Though buyers bid some items higher following the report with limited transactions concluded, buyers largely declined to chase sellers, many of whom remain reluctant to sell new crop at current price levels despite the supply overhang. Trade was thin throughout the period.

The Stratamarkets Almond Index remained unchanged at $2.09/lb FAS, down 86 cents from its year-ago level. Most assessed items showed marginal gains and losses, though SSR-grade items showed bigger moves.

On Monday, a grower in Fresno County and a close observer of the market expressed frustration that the latest report didn’t bolster prices. “It’s getting tiresome that the market will not respond to anything,” the grower said.

STD5 and SSR

Trade for 2022 crop STD5 ground to halt as buyers and sellers receded from the market. The item traded at $1.68/lb FAS and later at $1.70/lb FAS for prompt shipment. Sellers offered from $1.71/lb FAS to $1.77/lb FAS against limited bids at the close.

SSR-grade kernel trade was also thin, with traders saying weak demand was prompting some packers to offer the material as STD5. BPSSR traded at $1.82/lb FAS and later at $1.79/lb FAS, both for prompt shipment.

CALSSR 27/30 was bid at $1.86/lb late in the period,. That prompted assessed prices for CAL SSR items to surpass prices for BP SSR, which typically trades at a premium to CAL SSR.

Trade for 2021 crop STD5 and SSR-grade items was livelier. Old crop STD5 traded multiple times from $1.55/lb FAS and $1.60/lb FAS. Old crop CAL SSR traded from $1.60/lb FAS to $1.73/lb FAS depending on size.

Market sources said a surplus of unsold old crop STD5 and SSR grade almonds is sitting at European ports, available at sizeable discounts to origin material.

“There is no incentive at all [to buy new crop STD5],” said one Netherlands-based trader. “Old crop will be the preferred item at lower prices until it’s flushed out over the coming months.”

Old crop STD5 is offered on a duty-paid basis at Eur 3.80/kg ($1.74/lb) FCA Valencia and Eur 3.90/kg ($1.78/lb) FCA Hamburg on the spot markets. A U.K.-based trader said Oakland to Valencia freight costs around $6,750 per container (15 cents/lb).

According to Stratamarkets’ calculations, a consignment of old crop STD5 sold at $1.55/lb FAS would deliver into Valencia at a duty-paid equivalent price of Eur 3.96/kg ($1.80/lb), or a 6 cents/lb premium to material available on the spot market.

A Germany-based trader said he sold old crop STD5 at Eur 3.90/kg FCA Hamburg on Monday. “We still have some lots of old crop left that we basically want to get out because the warehouses are full,” he said. “I’m assuming most of the traders are having the same issue.”

Despite the price discounts in Europe’s spot market, buyers may be willing to pay higher prices for almonds from California because stocks in Europe are full and some buyers don’t mind the wait, the U.K.-based trader said.

“Their big stocks are slowly starting to find a home so they might prefer arrivals in November and December,” the trader said.

Another incentive for delaying purchases and shipments is to take advantage of lower customs duty into the European Union which takes effect from January 1, said a second U.K.-based trader. The tariff will be reduced from 3.5% to 2% for the first 85,958 mt (189.5 million lbs) of almonds shipped into the EU in the New Year.

The second U.K. trader said a customer recently postponed a shipment of CS 23/25 because the first available slot was October 25 and the 50-day transit time means it would not arrive until mid-to-late December.

“Many people will make this calculation,” the second trader said. “If they are due to receive a few days before Christmas, and have to put it in storage, they will delay shipment until January. That’s why there’s not a rush to get the first available shipments of new crop like in the past.”

European almond buyers and traders said rising costs and the resulting impact on consumption in the region are their main concerns. 

Inshell

Unsized NPIS traded in a tight range from $1.68/lb FAS to $1.70/lb FAS. Traded prices showed more deviation for sized NPIS, with transactions from $1.68/lb FAS to $1.80/lb FAS.

INIS trade was thin. The item traded early in the period at $1.45/lb FAS and later at $1.48/lb FAS. At the close of the period, the item was offered at $1.63/lb CIF India, which normalizes to a $1.55/lb FAS price.

Inshell trade activity slowed as the assessment period progressed. The slowdown surprised some market participants, who expected the reported 39% reduction in exports to India to increase trade activity. India is California’s largest export market and primarily buys inshell.

The drop in supply heading to India could bolster prices in India’s local market and drive increased demand for replenishments from California in the next few weeks, market participants said.

However, while the drop in August shipments was temporarily buttressing the current market, there was still downside risk, inshell traders said.

“Yes, markets are on the good side in India, but demand is only until Diwali,” said one India-based trader. “After that, there is a chance of the market sliding.”

In India’s local market, the INIS price discount to NPIS was increasing. That weakened demand for INIS from origin, a separate trader said.  

The NPIS price premium to NPX 27/30 increased 2 cents to  21 cents. The INIS differential to INX 23/25 moved from parity to a 5-cent discount.

Extra and Supreme

Sellers offered Extra-grade Nonpareil and Independence to the Middle East, Asia, and Europe with a few trades resulting. Trades for NPX with kernel sizes from 30/32 to 23/25 ranged from $2.05/lb FAS to $2.45/lb FAS.

A buyer for South Korea said demand in that country was waiting for NPXK 27/30 prices to fall to $2.15/lb FAS before purchasing.

But in recent weeks, NPX prices on the whole have shown steady increases. Sources said a reduction in Nonpareil supply could prompt NPX price premiums to all other kernel items to increase.

Carmel Type Supreme prices firmed. CTS 25/27 traded at $2.00/lb FAS after the release of the position report. Later, CTS 27/30 was bid at $2.02/lb FAS.

“To me, that just means Europe is finally starting to buy a little bit,” a northern California packer said on Tuesday. “They’re the big buyers of Carmel Type Supremes.”