Californian Market Reports - Barometer of International Prices

California’s walnut crop is the largest commercially traded walnut crop in the world and as such it has a big influence on international market prices. Californian walnut kernel is commonly available in NZ and influences our prices. 

The California walnut harvest season begins in late August so when they refer to a season it’s walnuts harvested in late August/September of that year. 

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Hsitorical/Background

In 2016 the average Californian price to growers, averaged over the total crop of 689,000 tons, was equivalent to NZ$3.16 per kg. (Source USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, 8 March 2020 exchange rate)

2019

 

In 2019 Californian growers, for good quality Chandlers, received US .75¢ per pound, a ten year low. In the beginning of 2020 they were expecting to receive US$1.00 to $1.15 per pound for the same quality of nuts. (Source private grower). US$.75¢ per pound equals NZ$2.60 per Kg and US$1.00 per pound equals NZ$3.46 per Kg (8 March 2020 exchange rate)

June 2020 Grower Direct Newsletter

Expecting the 2020 crop to be 700,000 tons with 85 to 95 thousand tons carried over from the last season. Retailers are holding small inventories and its expected that prices will be soft. 

July 2020, Alpine Pacific Newsletter

Prices continue to be low. Plenty of negative news to go around. 2020 California Crop likely to set a production record. (Harvest late August). New plantings 13,000 acres, down from 26,000 in 2015. Chile’s 2020 harvest 140,000 short tons, down from 2019. China is a growth exporter at the moment and they have higher yielding varieties, (than California). Covid-19 hasn’t affected retail sales to households but there’s a big impact on the food service sector. Californian walnuts are facing big tariff problems in many markets. Positive news is that the carryover crop from last season is now all gone. Retail sales volumes are increasing. Lower prices are increasing household consumption. These’s a slowdown in walnut plantings. 

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August 2020 Grower Direct Newsletter

Expecting that there will be a total of 800,000 tons to sell in the coming season. Expecting lower prices. 

This year Californian walnut shipments from distributors to the market is 6% behind the same time last year however June is the first month in the last 7 that there was a year on year increase. 

Shelled 2019/20 shipments from California to Germany have increased by a big 40% and Spain 6%. Decreased to USA (home market) -1%, Korea -12% 

In Shell increases to Turkey 4%, Italy 1% and India 25%. Decreases to UAE -43%, China -23%, Spain -1%.

Grower Direct has been investing in cost saving equipment. 

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November 2020, Alpine Pacific Newsletter

Estimate grower returns will be 40% less than 2019 prices. All tree nut prices have been impacted by Covid uncertainty and trade barriers. They report that their growers have lost money 2 out of the last 3 years. 

Californian production for the season is likely to be a little under 780,000 tons. THE LARGEST INCREASE IN PRODUCTION  IN THE HISTORY OF CALIFORNIAN WALNUTS. 

The Chilean crop is estimated to be up 25% as well. 

In the US, Covid means that there is a lot of uncertainty so wholesalers and retailers are careful buyers holding smaller inventories. Covid has caused plenty of logistical problems

Consumption is increasing, but production is increasing faster than demand. However lower prices help customers buy more

The hope is that prices to growers will rise back to US $1 possibly as early as 2021. (US $1 per pound equals NZ $3.14 per kg. 25 November 2020 exchange rate)

Current payout is equal to NZ $1.88 per kilo. 

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March 2021 Grower Direct Newsletter

Highlights problems caused by Covid 19. For the California industry as a whole maybe 116,000 tons of last season’s crop won’t be sold in the normal selling season. Transport, logistics and tariffs are all problems. 

The Californian production has increased faster than ever and they believe that the problems will be solved quickly when business gets back to normal after the pandemic. 

There are probably low inventories in the food distribution industry and good potential when the food service, and restaurant business gets going again after Covid. 

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2021 August – Grower Direct Newsletter

Their production year is finishing on a more positive note. Approximately 16% more walnuts have been sold year over year compared to August last year. 

Still means the about 90,000 tonnes of the Californian walnut crop will be carried forward to be sold in the next season. 

Chilean crop is all sold. 

Grower Direct making technology, equipment and staffing investments to help them remain competitive. 

A slightly better outlook but grower returns are still not what anyone would desire. 

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2021 September – Alpine Pacific Letter

Best News for quite a while. Strong demand and smaller crop likely to result in the best prices for 5 years. Growers are being paid around NZ $3.13 per kilo for good chandler, double last season’s rate. 

Crop volume is estimated to be 15% lower, 670,000 tons compared to 720,000 tons previous season. 

Quality key to maximum price. 

Skyrocketing production costs including freight and labour and Covid problems still exist.

Alpine Pacific are excited about better prices, a weight has been lifted from their shoulders.  It’s good news for us too because ingredients and supermarket kernel prices will increase and affect our overall market. 

Click here for interesting production and info from the USDA’s annual Objective measurement report. 

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2021 December – Alpine Pacific Newsletter

Crop production could be down 12% from 2020 crop. Quality good, especially good colour. (Kernel that is as white as possible is regarded as being top quality)

Sizing of 2021 crop is smaller. 

Competition from China and Chile a big problem. Buyers in premium in-shell markets view Chilean walnuts as being more consistently light in colour and now prefer them over Californian walnuts. 

Chinese have cheap product and are aggressive in markets.

Californian exporters are heavily affected by shipping problems and believe that the United States needs to modernise its ports. 

In-shell difficult to sell.

Californian growers are facing increasing water problems and input coists are rising. 

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2021 December – pacificnutproducer.com 

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2022  January – Grower Direct 

As far as the market is concerned 2021 was a challenging extreme rollercoaster ride. 

There was spring frost damage to the crop. 

Industry in a much poorer position than anticipated. 

Chinese crop over 1.1 million tonnes and low prices. 

Market conditions weak but prices expected to be higher than the previous season. 

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New Zealand Walnut Industry Group