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Situation and Outlook
|In 2001/02, increased output in the United States, the worlds largest producer, as well as several other smaller producers around the globe will increase world almond supplies 11 percent from last year. As a result, U.S. almond grower prices are expected to decline from the 2000/01 level of $1.01 per pound (based on the edible portion of the crop). Between 1996/97 and 2000/01, U.S. almond grower prices have declined by 51 percent. However, low almond prices encourage consumption and have in the past boosted U.S. exports to record levels. Lower world prices for almonds and an expected strong overseas demand should contribute to continued high levels of exports in 2001/02 and beyond.|
U.S. almond production in 2001/02 is forecast at a record 396,893 metric tons [preliminary forecast from California Agricultural Statistics Service (CASS), May 9, 2001], a 19-percent increase from the previous year. This increase in output is based on 212,461 bearing hectares, a 5-percent increase from 2000/2001. Total U.S. almond supplies in 2001/02 are forecast at 445,643 tons, up 11 percent from the previous season, due to a large increase in production.
With the cyclical nature of almonds, the 2001 season began with growers expecting a much heavier set than last year. Yields were expected to return to 1999's level. However, weather conditions have been less than ideal, resulting in reduced expectations for the 2001 crop. Low temperatures and rain during the critical bloom period decreased the ability of bees to successfully pollinate many orchards
across the producing areas of California. Also, high winds blew over some trees, particularly in older orchards. Despite the poor weather conditions, yields are expected to be up 19 percent from last year, but 4 percent below the record set in 1999.
Almond growers welcomed a break from the previous 5-year slump in prices, as grower prices rose 17 percent from the 1999/2000 level to $1.01/lb. in 2000/01. Unfortunately, grower prices are expected to decrease during 2001/02, due to higher U.S. output and supplies. Approximately 75 percent of the worlds almonds are produced by the United States.
In 2001/02, U.S. almond exports are forecast at 238,211 tons, up 2 percent from the previous year. Low almond prices are expected to spur exports. In 2000/01, shelled almonds, including prepared and preserved, accounted for 91 percent of total U.S. almond exports. Major buyers of U.S. shelled almonds were the European Union (primarily Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands), accounting for 53 percent, and Asia (primarily, India, Japan, and China) purchasing 29 percent. Asia is the most significant importer of in-shell almonds, purchasing nearly 79 percent of U.S. in-shell exports in 2000/01.
With support from the Market Access Program, the U.S. almond industry continues to dominate the export market. China was a success story this year, with sales up 44 percent from last year. China is now the fourth largest market for U.S. almonds, following Germany, Spain, and India. Expanding consumption is critical in selling the large U.S. crop, so marketing campaigns are focused on the message that almonds are a healthy way to snack.
Spains 2001/02 almond production is forecast at 68,000 tons, a 24-percent increase from the previous season, due to favorable weather conditions in most growing areas. Production in several areas, however, will be smaller than normal since drought and frost led to poor blossoming and reduced yields. According to a recent survey, there were 794,000 bearing hectares, of which less than 6 percent were irrigated. Consequently, rainfall during the fall is crucial to almond productivity. Exports in 2001/02 are forecast at 48,000 tons, only a slight increase from last year, due to the larger crop. Other EU countries (Germany, France, and Italy) are the major destinations, representing about 93 percent of Spains export markets. Almond imports in 2001/02 are forecast to increase slightly. The United States continues to be the dominant foreign supplier of almonds to Spain, increasing its market share to 97 percent of total imports for 2000/01. Due to their uniformity and low breakage, U.S. almonds are generally preferred by almond processors to produce food ingredients. Once processed, about 50 percent of U.S. almonds are exported to other EU countries.
While there is no price support program for tree nuts, the EU does have an improvement plan that is implemented in both Spains almond and hazelnut sectors. Up to 475 ECU/hectare can be provided to growers to plant improved, higher-yielding varieties. While this program was expected to end this year, Spanish nut growers effectively voiced their opposition to its demise and secured a one-year extension. The government of Spain and industry continue to seek an extension of the program until the implementation of the new fruit and vegetable regime, which is scheduled, in principle, to take place in 2003. Given competition from U.S. product, Spanish almond growers consider this program vital to their future competitiveness and are expected to oppose the most recent EU proposal for reform of the fruit and vegetable regime, which calls for a significant cut in subsidies.
Almond production for 2001/02 is forecast at 20,000 tons (shelled basis), double the poor crop harvested last year. Weather conditions remained very favorable during the whole season and trees are expected to produce at almost their current maximum capacity. Furthermore, some observers tie the production increase to the cyclical crop fluctuation, which is more pronounced in Italys ageing almond trees. Domestic almond prices have followed the world market trend for 2000/01 year, averaging 6 percent more than the previous year. After high levels reported during September 2000-January 2001, prices declined significantly and are now reported at levels close to one year ago. However, relatively cheap almond prices are still favoring domestic consumption, and in some cases are causing substitution for other, more expensive nuts. Imported nuts are mostly consumed in northern Italy, while local almonds are more popular in the south, where Italian production is concentrated. Over the past four years, imports have grown in response to both decreasing domestic production and expanding consumption, fluctuating only in response to the domestic crop volume. Price competitiveness between the United States and Spain, Italys two main almond sources, will remain key in determining which country gains a larger share of the Italian market.
Greek almond production in 2000/01 totaled 15,500 tons, compared to 17,000 tons in 1999 (shelled basis) due to unfavorable weather conditions in early June (hail storms in the area of Magnisia of eastern Thessaly) as well as the loss of some orchards from forest fires. The quality of the crops in 1999, 2000, as well as the anticipated 2001 harvest, continue to be very good to excellent. Due to the cyclical nature of tree yields and stable tree numbers, the outlook for almond production over the next 3 to 5 years is estimated to average about 16,000 tons/annum (shelled basis), provided that weather conditions are favorable. The output for 2001 is currently estimated to reach 17,200 tons, the highest level recorded in the past 5 years. The shell/in-shell ratio for Greek almonds (weighted average) is 28 percent.
Despite grower complaints that high input costs and cheap imports make domestic production unprofitable, traders considered 2000/01 grower prices satisfactory. Greece has the highest per capita consumption of nuts in the world and produces mainly to meet domestic demand and the growing tourism industry. Almond consumption represents about 25 percent of total domestic nut consumption which is estimated at 60,000 tons. Almond exports consist only of excess nuts, which go primarily to other EU countries.
Almonds are a minor nut crop in Turkey. Almonds grow naturally in Turkey, but were not cultivated as a commercial crop until recently. In 2000/01, almond production in Turkey is forecast at 15,000 tons, down slightly from the previous year. Consumption has been growing slowly, due to the abundant availability of the preferred hazelnuts. Almost all increases in aggregate consumption are the result of increased population, rather than increased per capita consumption. Almonds are generally consumed whole as a snack food, with limited amounts utilized in confectionary products. Trade is mainly restricted to border exchanges with neighboring countries.
U.S. Exports of Almonds to Principal
Marketing Years 1996/97 - 2000/01
U.S. Imports of Almonds
Calendar Years 1996 - 2000
The FAS Attaché Report search engine contains detailed reports on Tree Nut Competition or Market Intelligence for 16 countries, including Spain, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. (For information on production and trade, contact Erik Hansen at 202-720-0875. For information on marketing contact Ingrid Mohn at 202-720-5330. Also, visit the tree nuts web page at: http://www.fas.usda.gov/htp/horticulture/nuts.html )