Almond, Walnut & Pistachio Harvest Update

August 31, 2012


          While many within the industry had projected a smaller 2012 Nonpareil crop, early harvest results have tended to show both lower yields and smaller sizes than expected.  With the Nonpareil harvest about 50 to 60% complete, the average kernel size is estimated to be in 27/30 to 25/27 range.  The June 30, 2012, Objective Estimate put the crop at 2.1 billion pounds (kernel basis).  While shipments have continued to set new records, pricing has not fluctuated much because there appears to be enough Almonds to handle current demand.  Besides, for the past several years, the final crop figure has consistently come out higher than the Objective Estimate (partially because the second and third year trees are not counted in the estimate).  It is still very early in the harvest, but if current trends continue, buyers should expect to see higher prices for the larger size Almonds.  However, even with that possibility, Almonds will still be the best buy for the money.


          Even with the recent drought and heat wave, most growers are not reporting any significant damage to the crop. With the final USDA (NASS) ‘Objective’ crop estimate due out next week (September 4, 2012), most within the industry believe that this year’s crop will set a new record.  Earlier, the Walnut handler Coalition had set their ‘Subjective’ estimate for the 2012 crop at 513,000 tons (inshell basis). While the USDA’s estimates over the past few years have left a lot to be desired, most within the industry believe that the crop will exceed the previous record of 503,000 tons set in 2010. However, due to the severe shortages the past two years and another year of low carryout, prices have not fallen as dramatically as had been hoped.  Demand is still very good, and while prices should be better than last year, unless the crop comes in considerably larger than projected, pricing will probably not change much from their current levels.  Based on recent Chinese inshell purchases, as well as the recent weakening of prices in the Pecan market, Walnut prices could weaken later in the year should buyers decide to switch from Walnuts back to Pecans.


          The Pistachio crop is shaping up to be the largest ever.  Figures in the range of 550 to 600 million pounds (inshell basis) have been bandied about. While prices have fallen from recent highs, the market continues to remain firm as a result of the poor Iranian crop. Producing a much better crop, a higher quality crop, California Pistachios have quickly become the ‘gold’ standard for buyers around the world.  Further, the Pistachio Commission has done an outstanding job of promoting their product. Even with the additional plantings in California, any anticipated increases in total supply will probably be offset by continued increases in demand thereby preventing any significant price decreases in the months ahead.