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Price fall as market struggles to exit holiday lull 

January 12, 2024

All assessed inshell and kernel items declined or stayed flat in the global pecan market during the week ending on Friday as tepid demand and a reluctance on the part of sellers to lower offers stymied trade. 

Buyers from China, who had been purchasing the vast majority of higher-quality inshell from the U.S. and Mexico in recent weeks, pulled back during the period. Overall, completed inshell sales lagged as sellers and buyers failed to come to common ground.  

“This week is very confusing,” said one U.S. trader on Monday. “Everyone is trying to figure out the prices. The buyers are not willing to go up on the price, and the growers need the price to be higher to cover costs.” 

Assessed Desirable and Stuart prices decreased by 10 cents and 32 cents, respectively, during the Jan. 6-12 assessment period, with Desirable falling to $3.44/pt FOB Georgia and Stuart dropping to $3.29/pt FOB Georgia. The assessed W Wichita price stayed flat on the week, landing once again at $3.25/pt DAP Texas.  

Many inshell offer prices are currently too high to give shellers the margins they need to make a profit on kernel items, so they are waiting on the sidelines for now, said the U.S. trader.  

“Either the price of inshell is going to have to go down, or the price of kernels will have to go up,” the trader said. 

Growers in Mexico and the U.S. are still holding onto their crop as they work to get a better understanding of the post-harvest market.  

“People are still holding and waiting to see what happens,” said one Mexican grower. “There is no hurry to go to market as long as the growers have cash for expenses.” 

Pecan growers from South Africa headed to China this week to try to solidify contracts with that country in advance of their spring harvest. 

Kernel

Kernel items continued to trade at lower-than-expected prices during the period. Participants also expressed uncertainty about where the price was heading, further dampening kernel trade activity.  

“We have no idea which way things will go,” a second U.S. trader said on Friday. “The figures floating around right now are between $4.18 and $4.80. No one is on the same page.”  

Many market participants were headed to Florida for the annual Peanut and Tree Nut Processors Association (PTNPA) convention, which will be held from Friday, Jan. 12 to Monday, Jan 15. The convention is often the place where prices are discussed and deals are brokered, making it the unofficial start to the post-harvest trading season after the lull of the holidays.  

“People know PTNPA is coming up, so they are waiting to get business done there,” said one U.S. sheller. 

The assessed Fancy Jr Mam H price stayed flat during the period, retaining its $4.52/lb FOB Texas level. The item traded multiple times during the assessment period and once on the last day of the previous assessment period from $4.20-$4.61 FOB Texas-equivalent. Offers ranged from $4.25-$4.90/lb FOB Texas.  

Fancy Med Pcs lost 22 cents during the period, falling to $4.40/lb FOB Texas. The item traded once at $4.40/lb FOB Texas. It was offered one time for $4.60/lb FOB Texas. 

Fancy Lge Pcs also fell during the period, down 17 cents to $4.43/lb FOB Texas. That put Fancy Lge Pcs at a 3-cent premium to Fancy Med Pcs. 

The low prices meant another week of not many trades getting done.  

“The last couple of deals have been at lower levels than we’ve anticipated, and it has some in the industry spooked,” said the U.S. sheller. “Those contracts went for too cheap.” 

But others feel the market has reached a floor, as evidenced by several large trades with Europe and the Middle East this week. Large contracts for 700,000 lbs and 500,000 lbs went for $4.45/lb FOB Texas and $4.50/lb FOB Texas, respectively. For some market observers, those large-volume trades will set the market.  

“I have been waiting to see someone lay down some real volume,” a U.S. grower said on Thursday. “I view it as somebody is finally coming up to bat and laying down the market. This is the market now.” 

However, the grower went on to say that they do not feel prices have much headroom to improve, and that the longer sellers wait, the less market share they might capture.  

“At this point in the year, you can’t say that these prices don’t work so you are not going to sell,” the grower said. “You will miss the whole thing.” 

Word also circulated among sellers of another large retail tender that contracted for between $3.90/lb FOB Texas and $4.30/lb FOB Texas, below levels that would cover operating costs for most sellers.  

Meanwhile, continued trouble at both the Suez and Panama canals threatened to dampen trade activity as both buyers and sellers were unwilling to take on the burden of higher freight costs.  

Houthi rebel attacks on vessels in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen have caused some ships to instead circumnavigating Africa, increasing both costs and shipment times. And low water levels in the Panama Canal have limited how many ships can pass through the channel per day.  

“The freight prices are making it harder to get these deals going,” said the second U.S. trader. “The freight prices are higher across the board and it is making the market even softer.” 

Pecan growers from South Africa headed to China this week to try to solidify contracts with that country in advance of their spring harvest.