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Carl Collen


Mixed bag for US nuts

Almond production is expected to fall while higher volumes are expected for walnuts and pecans, the latest USDA report has suggested

Mixed bag for US nuts

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The latest US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service situation and outlook report has estimated a fall in California’s almond production for the 2015/16 campaign, with volumes pegged at just under 816,500 tonnes, down 4 per cent on the previous year and 11 per cent on the record 920,729 tonnes recorded in 2011/12. According to the USDA, lower projected yields more than offset an increase in bearing acreage.

Total almond shipments from the US, both domestic and exports, were 6 per cent behind 2014/15 through the end of February, according to the Almond Board of California. Close to 70 per cent of total US almonds are set to head to international markets again this year, with rises in shipments to western Europe and Japan so far this campaign, but a drop-off in volumes to Canada, Mexico, China, India and South Korea – falls attributed to the strength of the US dollar.

Californian walnut production, however, is forecast to reach a record high in 2015/16, according to the USDA, with the most recent estimate having the crop at 575,000 tonnes, up 1 per cent on the benchmark harvest of 2014. The Walnut Marketing Board says that shipments to international markets are on the rise for both in-shell and shelled varieties, although domestic demand is down (for the August-February period).

“Of the key export markets for US walnuts, in-shell volumes were strong to Turkey, Germany, Italy, and Vietnam but were down to Hong Kong, South Korea, and China,” USDA outlined. “Shelled volumes had notable increases to most markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, to Canada, to some markets in Asia, including China, Malaysia and Thailand, but declined to Japan and South Korea.”

Pecan production across the whole of the US is predicted to come in just over 123,500 tonnes, which the USDA says is 3 per cent higher than the previous season, but is actually 10 per cent down on the last ‘on-cycle’ crop as part of the trees alternate bearing pattern, occurring on 2012. Much of the expected increase in production for 2015/16 will come from native and seedling varieties, which account for 16 per cent of the crop.

Georgia, New Mexico and Texas are the top three producing states and together account for 77 per cent of the country’s overall volumes. Higher prices and the strong US dollar are dampening demand in some of the leading export markets for US pecans, particularly Hong Kong and Vietnam for in-shell exports and Mexico and Germany for shelled shipments. However, year-to-date shelled export volumes are up 3 per cent thanks to growth in markets such as Canada, China and most of the European Union.

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