Market Report: Almond
California shippers managed their best overall shipment month of the crop year at an impressive 244.9 million lbs. This was a surprise to virtually the entire market and is the best shipping performance since March of 2021 at 266 million lbs. Despite the shock, March is down 8.1% from a year ago, leaving the cumulative shipments for the season down 15% from last year's record-setting pace.
The highlights of the shipping details are few, with little distinction in some regions from March this year versus a year ago. However, there were a few outliers:
Japan mustered a hearty month-over-month increase of nearly 52%, with 14.7 million lbs. of almonds headed to the destination. Meanwhile, Korea cooled it heals and shipped 40% less than last March at 5.8 million lbs.
India shipments were relatively flat at 23.9 million lbs. compared to 24.3 million last year.
Western Europe also came within less than 1 million lbs. Last year, it was shipping nearly 74 million lbs.
The Middle East remains 24% behind last year's pace, with March shipments down 25% at 19.3 million lbs.
Last month's domestic shipments were troubling at 53.4 million lbs. March shipments recovered nicely to 71.84 million lbs. and were up 1% over last March. Overall the domestic market remains almost 3% behind last year's pace.
New sales for March are 219.8 million lbs., a new monthly March record. As expected, most of the commitments were export-driven despite a stronger dollar compared to most global currencies. It's hard not to say that prices are a major factor in the recent sales trend. Sales in the 2022 calendar year (Jan, Feb, March) have been over 100 million lbs. more than the same period a year ago. This is mainly true for the entire crop year, except for the number of sales before harvest. Pre-harvest sales were much stronger in 2021.
While sales typically are the biggest indicator of strong shipping months, the recent shipping situation has become anything but predictable. March shipments were a major surprise to all participants, but the number of recent booking cancellations due to equipment shortages is astounding. Shipping teams, forwarders, and the like work tirelessly to ensure every possible available container is put to good use. Nevertheless, and assuming the industry has the equipment available to bolster the remaining '21 shipments to perform flat to last year, the carryout should be dangerously close to 800 million lbs., or 200 million lbs. more than last year.
The big question is looking forward to the 2022 crop. Today's estimated 2.90 billion lbs. sheds some additional light on the upcoming crop. All-in-all, most estimators (and best-guessers) assume a crop close to or less than last year. We expect this year will come with wide-ranging crop expectations, at least as in how they will affect the markets and sentiments globally, and perhaps packers' willingness to sell, especially new crops. Needless to say, and as reported, the crop potential varies widely across the state, farm to farm, and even field to field.