March's Cold Storage Holdings Indicate Good Consumption. South Africa Begins Their Harvest

May 22, 2018

Today’s release of the March Cold Storage Holdings continues to indicate that shipments are good.  With approximately 12 million more pounds (inshell basis) in cold storage than a year ago, the industry should have no problem handling projected demand well into the Fall.

As for Mexico, while there have been no inshell shipments to the US since April 27th, meats continue to come across the border.  Through May 13th, over 191 million pounds (162 million pounds net inshell basis) have crossed into the US. While Mexican imports will not come close to last year’s record crossings, as stated last month, both the US and Mexico appear to have had crops considerably larger than originally forecast.

Having recently returned from South Africa, it would appear that their crop may also be larger than the originally forecast.  Most of the farmers I spoke to indicated that the 19,000-ton projection could be on the low side; some adding that the crop could be as large as 22,000 tons (48.5 million pounds).  While some growers had started to shake their trees, the harvest is just now getting underway in earnest.  Prices being offered by the Chinese are considerably lower than had been hoped.  Further, there have been few offers on anything other than oversize inshell.  If the South African crop turns out to be as large as some project, it will almost certainly impact prices paid to US Growers.

Finally, contrary to a recently published report of continued increases in exports to China, since 2012, worldwide pecan shipments to China have remained relatively flat.  Fluctuating between 120 and 140 million pounds of pecans per year (inshell basis), high pecan prices, and lower prices of competing nuts, have hampered efforts to improve consumption in the world’s largest nut market.  Further, while US exports to China are up slightly through March (up 3.6% over the same period last year), since 2012, US exports to China have declined almost 20%.  This decrease can be directly tied to increases in South Africa’s production.  With more supply options, and a market that will consume either walnuts or pecans, China has shifted its pecan purchases to those countries, and those nuts, with the most competitive prices.    South Africa is expected to produce a record crop this year; somewhere north of 42 million pounds.  Based on current information, they are projected to produce 100 million pounds by 2022.  Their costs of production are the lowest in the world and their harvest occurs at a perfect time for China’s Fall festivals.  Unless something happens to increase China’s appetite for pecans, they will continue to shift their purchases away from higher-priced suppliers.  While the US Pecan Industry is spending considerably more to increase consumption, that will not happen overnight. China still prefers Georgia’s Desirables and Stuarts; however, there is no difference between Westerns and/or Wichita’s grown in New Mexico, Old Mexico, South Africa or Australia.  It all comes down to price.