Thursday, August 31, 2006

’06 California almond harvest begins Aug 31, 2006 9:24 AM
By Harry Cline
California’s 6,000 almond growers are moving into high gear gathering the state’s fourth 1-billion-pound crop in the past five years.

And everyone is all smiles with harvest time prices of $2.45 cents per pound for Nonpareil and $1.90 for California varieties.
Between 70 million and 80 million pounds of this year’s crop will be hulled and shelled through one of the five hulling/shelling plants operated by Central California Almond Growers Association (CCAGA) in Kerman, Calif. and Sanger, California. CCCAGA is the largest huller/sheller in the world and will process $200 million worth of almonds by Thanksgiving.
The association is opening this season with a new state-of-the-art $9.5 million huller/sheller in Kerman to handle a large portion of the crop delivered by the association’s 453 members harvested from 50,000 acres or orchards in a service area stretching from Pixley, Calif. to Chowchilla, Calif. in the Central San Joaquin Valley.
California’s 2006 estimated 1.05 billion-pound meat pound crop is 11 percent above last year’s 915 million pound crop. It is not a record, but it is remarkable.
Madera, Calif. almond grower Don McKinney and chairman of the CCAGA board is surprised by the crop set in spite of low chilling hours resulting in a early bloom; a frost that hit some early varieties and wet cool conditions through the spring that inhibited bee pollination. The all-important Nonpareil variety representing about 40 percent of the state’s crop set well and looks good.
“Growers I have talked to are individually all over the board. Some say they are better off than last year. Others say yields are worse than last season. Overall, I think we have a pretty good crop,” said McKinney.
However, he believes some growers may be surprised at leaf footed bug damage this year. This pest surfaces about every 10 years in almonds and has been particularly troublesome the past two seasons, said McKinney.
“You can sort of tell how much damage you have had by the number of nuts on the ground. If you look there for damage this year, you are kidding yourself because probably 50 per cent of the damaged leaf footed bugs nuts are still stuck on the trees,” said McKinney.
When almonds stung by the leaf footed bug go to the sheller/huller, there is no marketable meat inside the shell.
“I don’t think it hurt the overall crop, but everyone has some damage. Some may be severe,” said McKinney.
CCGAGA president and CEO Mike Kelley has received a report from a Pixley area grower who estimates he has lost 70 percent of his crop to the insect that inflects its damage by puncturing the hull before it hardens. It often oozes a gummy residue from the hole, but not always.
Regardless of insect damage, McKinney believes the USDA/NASS office has a “very good handle” on acreage and therefore yield forecasting.
McKinney believes the surprising 1 billion pound crop in the wake of all the early problems is a combination of more young acreage producing above average yields and a good crop on some varieties.
California is the only state in the nation producing almonds and no other California crop has seen the meteoric rise in acreage, yield and prices like almonds over the past decade. While the unprecedented demand for almonds has many growers and handlers wealthy, it also has attracted thousands of new acres. This is making than a few growers and handlers nervous about the future when bearing acreage is expected to reach 750,000 acres, 200,000 more than is producing now.
This is McKinney’s 35th almond harvest. He says he has farmed through at least four almond production/price up and down cycles.
“There have always been those who were scared to death we could not sell 500 million pounds, then we’d never sell 750 million pounds and when we got to 1-billion pounds, everything would collapse. We have now sold virtually five straight 1 million pounds at record or near record prices for growers,” said McKinney.
Prices will eventually moderate from the stratospheric levels of the past two seasons, McKinney admits, but he does not see the sky falling. “The future does not scare me. This industry is in good shape with organizations like the Almond Board, Blue Diamond and strong independent handlers. The Almond Board has done a terrific job of creating demand. There are so many bright, energetic people in this business, I think the future is very positive,” he added.
Kelley points out that the market has grown at a steady annual rate of 5.4 percent since 1980.
“We need at least one billion pounds per year now just to meet market demands. As longs as Oprah keep talking about how good almonds are; as long as the heart association and doctors keeps talking about how healthy almonds are, demand will be there,” said McKinney.

Italy, one of the EU’s largest producers of nuts, is facing one of its smallest harvests for some years.
Bad weather knocked almonds, particularly in the Apulia region. The situation cut 2006 production to 6,000 tonnes, 50% down on the previous year. This, in turn, is likely to impact on exports – projected at 4,500 tonnes as against 7,000 tonnes in 2005.
The Italians expect a poor pistachio harvest. Estimates released this week put this year’s crop at 3,500 tonnes.
Prospects for hazelnuts are brighter. In-shell production is forecast at 120,000 tonnes, double that of last season when adverse weather knocked crops in Campania, which accounts for a third of planted area, and Latium, which represents an additional 27%. Crops in Piedmont and Sicily were also affected.
Given this background, exports are projected to rise to 50,000 tonnes, a high percentage of which are destined for the UK and Germany.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

U.S. Peanut Farmers Look to Expand Exports to Russia
Annoyed by four years of tumbling exports, U.S. peanut industry officials are encouraged by what they hope will become a growing market in Russia, a trend that would benefit peanut farmers and rural communities throughout the southern United States, where the crop is grown.
Canada is the leading importer of U.S. peanuts, buying 70,374 tons last year, followed by the Netherlands with 27,835 tons and Mexico with 21,740 tons. Russia climbed to 10th place in 2005, importing just 1,522 tons. But Russia has already nearly doubled that in the first half of this year, with imports totaling 2,652 tons.
“I think it’s a golden opportunity if we can keep it going,” Tyron Spearman of Tifton, publisher of a peanut industry newsletter, told Associated Press. “It’s significant that they’ve moved up. They were off the radar screen before that.”
Argentina, a major competitor in the world peanut market, had a short crop last year and that may have prompted Russians to buy more U.S. peanuts, said Sally Klusaritz, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Agriculture Department in Washington.
But Patrick Archer, president of the American Peanut Council, said it was an indication of a growing market for higher-quality snacks, including American-style potato chips and candy bars loaded with U.S. peanuts.
“Several multinational companies now have a presence in Russia, which has raised the overall quality of Russian snack foods,” Archer said. “With that rise in quality, there’s been an increased demand for high-quality U.S. peanuts.”

Monday, August 28, 2006

Oregon Hazelnut Farmers Expect Big Crop
SALEM, Ore. -- A U.S. Department of Agriculture survey says Oregon farmers expect to harvest 41,000 tons of hazelnuts this year -- 49 percent more than last year's crop.
From 1992 to 2003, hazelnut production had a biennial bearing pattern; large harvests one year were followed by much smaller harvests the next. That pattern changed in 2004 and 2005, when hazelnut production declined for two consecutive years.
Agriculture officials say the 2006 crop might be a return to the biennial bearing pattern.
This year, an average of 380 nuts were picked per tree for the USDA's Hazelnut Objective Yield Survey. This is the highest average since 2001, when the average was 574 nuts picked per tree.
Walnuts Market /Crop Report
The Walnut Marketing Board announced the June Shipments at 22,132 inshell equivalent tons, about the same as last year. Inshell shipments were 1.8 million pounds, also same as last year. June Shelled shipments were 18.9 million pounds compared to 18.7 million pounds last June. Total Inshell equivalent shipments were 325,166 tons; 6,419 more than last year YTD totals.
Junes’ shipments insure that we will meet the Walnut Marketing Boards goal of 344,000 tons. In fact, we will most likely exceed it by several thousand tons.
According to industry officials, the recent twelve day record heat-wave damages to the states’ walnut crop may not be as bad as was feared. Relatively humid conditions and irrigation actions taken by the growers may have reduced losses. Normally, when there are extremely high temperatures for an extended period of time we would have severe sunburn, but so far, the sunburn losses seem to be limited to the earlier varieties.
However, we still have over a month to go before harvest and if we experience another extended period of hot weather, we could see serious damage to the crop. In any event, the packers have set their ‘subjective” crop estimate at 358,000 tons, 4,000 tons more than last year’s crop.

Again, strong shipments are keeping the market firm; with some strengthen over the past several weeks. The market for Light Halves & Pieces is $2.90 plus. Combination Halves and Pieces are $2.55. I believe the market has room to strengthen another ten cents before harvest; especially if we experience more high temperatures days prior to harvest.
The 2005 crop carry-over will be around 85,000 tons, 20,000 tons less than average. This coupled with a 358,000 ton crop will provide the industry with the same tonnage as last year. If this is the case, we sould expect a market similar to last year. I will keep you posted.
Mac-nut growers can't find buyers
Hawaiian farmers have a bumper crop of the signature nuts -- but nowhere to sell it

Another bumper macadamia nut crop is expected this year, but Big Island farmers' biggest problem may be finding someone to buy Hawaii's signature nuts.

Too much yield: Macadamia nuts are grown by about 700 independent farmers in Hawaii. They worry they won't be able to sell this year's crop. - STEVE PARENTE / Associated Press
With only a handful of processors on the island and one of the biggest temporarily out of the market, hundreds of independent farmers are concerned.
Statewide, Hawaii nut orchards are projected to produce 60 million pounds this year, topping last year's crop and creating a potential glut of the local market. They also face increasing competition in export markets from what local farmers say are lower quality nuts grown in Australia and other countries.
MacFarms of Hawaii, which expects a bumper crop from its own nut orchard, cited last season's very large crop and costs associated with handling it when it sent a letter to mac-nut growers on June 7 saying that it would not be buying nuts from independent farmers.
"We have quite an inventory of nuts right now," MacFarms President Hilary Brown said. "Also, prices have dropped this year, demand has slowed and we are expecting a large crop this year. That said, if the situation changes, we might be back in the market."
In addition, the company has agreed to buy at least 5 million pounds of nuts next year from Hilo's ML Macadamia Orchards LP. But Brown said that deal was not the major factor in the decision.
ML President Dennis Simonis said Macadamia Orchards is considered the world's largest individual mac-nut farm, with more than 4,000 acres of trees.
Judy Magin, executive director of the Hawaii Macadamia Nut Association, said she has been seeking other processors to help the association's 100 members.
"It did surprise everyone, but people shouldn't panic," she said. "There are options. Some of the other big processors are telling us 'We need Hawaiian nuts.' "
Macadamia nuts are grown by between 650 and 700 independent farmers in Hawaii. Since trees were first planted in the 1940s, they have become one of the state's top crops. Mac nuts are a popular snack and are a gourmet addition to cookies, coffee, ice cream and other goodies.
Richard Schmitzler, president and owner of Hamakua Mac Nut Co. and an association board member, said his company still is buying mac nuts and will continue to support independent farmers.
"We are going to do everything we can to help these farmers," he said.
The bulk of U.S. mac-nut exports go to Japan, with most of the remainder to Canada, Korea, France, the Netherlands and Hong Kong, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture.
"It's a lot more important to our economy than people realize," Schmitzler said.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Supply increase slashes macadamia prices
Monday, 14/08/2006
An increased world supply has cut the price of macadamia nuts by almost half and investors are counting the cost.
Up to 20 per cent of macadamia farms have changed hands in the past two years, due to strong demand and sustained industry growth.
But Andrew Heap, from the Australian Macadamia Society, says increasing fuel costs and mortgage repayments has now hit consumer demand.
He says over-investment on some farms will create problems.
"Most of those investors have been in a financial position to pay more than the agricultural value say these farms are worth," he said.
"So I don't think that threatens the industry or those investors in any particular way

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Pecans As promised, we are back with more information regarding the total supply picture for the 2006 pecan crop season.
We have just received the following:

Cold Storage Holdings for the end of June show 234.7 million pounds of inshell equivalent. This shows a disappearance of 12.9 million pounds.
Two estimates have now been released from the Texas Grower’s Association and are as follows:
Kyle Brookshire Estimated 2006 US Pecan Crop 165 million pounds
Kenneth Pape Estimated 2006 US Pecan Crop 196 million pounds

As anticipated, we just completed our 22nd annual pecan crop estimation. Year in and year out, we have studied the same farms and the same trees to obtain our own opinion of what the future holds with upcoming crops. In doing this, as of today, we have estimated the upcoming 2006 pecan crop to total approximately 200 million pounds. Of course we still have many months before harvest begins, so we will need to watch it closely until then and report any possible changes.

In summation, we now have five estimates and they are as follows:

Louisiana (1) 159 million pounds (See Attached)
Louisiana (2) 171 million pounds (See Attached)
Texas (1) 165 million pounds (See Attached)
Texas (2) 196 million pounds (See Attached)
SNC (1) 200 million pounds (See Attached)

Aside from the above estimates, we will also have estimates from the annual sheller’s meeting in September along with the USDA’s annual estimate on or about October 10th.

It is important for us to point out that in our last market update, we showed an average disappearance in cold storage holdings of 95.7 million pounds from the end of May through the end of September. Now, it seems that the disappearance from the end of May until the end of June is somewhat of a disappointment compared to some past years. Still, the average disappearance for the month of June is 15.6 million pounds and the numbers published only show a 12.9 million pound disappearance. If this trend continues, we are still looking at a 150 + million pound carry in for the 2006 pecan season.

We will be back to you soon with more news.
Hazelnut controversy heats up politics
Tuesday,August 1, 2006
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News
The government discussed its hazelnut policies yesterday amid mounting criticism from hazelnut producers and the political opposition that its strategy is responsible for a record decline in nut prices, impoverishing hundreds of thousands of producers.
No statement had emerged from a Cabinet meeting that tackled, along with other issues, the hazelnut controversy, by the time the Turkish Daily News went to press.
Criticism peaked when some 100,000 demonstrators, bussed from nearly 40 provinces, gathered in the Black Sea province of Ordu on Sunday, blocking the Ordu-Samsun highway for several hours in protest of the government's hazelnut policies.
They shouted slogans against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his advisor, C├╝neyd Zapsu, who is involved in the hazelnut export business and is currently chairman of the board of directors of the International Nut and Dried Fruit Council.
Critics claim the government's nut policy is shaped according to Zapsu's personal business interests and that Zapsu and Prime Minister Erdogan, who backs him at the expense of alienating hazelnut producers, are responsible for record-low prices for hazelnuts this year.
Political tension reached a critical point in July when a fight broke out between the government and the Association for Hazelnut Marketing Cooperatives, or Fiskobirlik. The association failed to announce a base price this year and made no purchases from producers due to the economic hardship it is currently facing.
Fiskobirlik's failure to pay producers has intensified a decrease in the wholesale price of hazelnuts, since desperate producers are hardly able to sell their product at sufficiently higher prices elsewhere. Prices currently stand around YTL 2.5 per kilogram, down from YTL 7 just earlier this year.
The government has made it clear that it is not responsible for Fiskobirlik's failure to buy hazelnuts from producers. Industry and Trade Minister Ali Coskun has repeatedly assured that the government has no intention of paying the debts of Fiskobirlik.
In a speech in Ordu in June, Erdogan, responding to a call on the government to seize Fiskobirlik's assets and repay its debts, said the government had already paid YTL 2 billion to write off Fiskobirlik's debts but asserted that it would not do so again.
“Go and knock on Fiskobirlik's door,” he had then said.
Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal, in a meeting last week in Ordu, blamed Erdogan and Zapsu for the miserable situation the hazelnut producers are in and pledged to work with advisors who would look at the issue from the perspective of the interest of the producers, if his party comes to power.