USDA NASS Finally Releases December 2018 Cold Storage Data

February 22, 2019

The USDA finally released the December 2018 Cold Storage figures (January numbers are scheduled for release on March 7, 2019), and as expected, inventories continue to be running ahead of last year; 194.9 million pounds (inshell basis) vs 183.9 million pounds.  As has generally been the case since the American Pecan Council started publishing ‘Handler’ data, the USDA figures continue to show more in inventory than the APC figures indicate. This is to be expected since the USDA collects data from numerous ‘non-handler’ sources, some of whom are Growers who are not required to report inventory they hold until it enters commerce. Based on currently available information, much of the December difference can be attributed to stocks being held by Growers.

Like the Cold Storage figures, the Government shutdown also delayed the release of the November export data.  As expected, overall exports were down dramatically.  While there continue to be significant differences between the USDA FAS and APC data, according to the FAS data, 17.8 million of the 20.1 million pounds of inshell exported went to Mexico (most to be shelled and returned to the US as kernels). Of the remaining 2.3 million pounds, 1.98 million went to China. The only bright spot in the November export figures was the 7.8% increase in kernel exports.

Mexico continues to set export records. As of February 14th, Mexico exported 194.8 million pounds of pecans to the US (inshell basis); a 43.4% increase over the same period a year ago and 17.5% more than the record set two years ago.  When adjusted for US inshell exports to Mexico, net exports to the US are up approximately 37% over the same period a year ago.

Overseas, South Africa reported that their 2018 crop was 18,200 metric tons (40.1 million pounds), 85 to 90% of which went to China.  Further, new plantings in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia produced an additional 200 to 400 metric tons (441,000 to 882,000 lbs).  While Zimbabwe currently has 2,500 to 3,000 acres planted (Zambia has 500 to 1,250 acres planted), it will not be long before Zambia becomes the second largest producer in Africa.  At the moment, they are planting more than 3,750 acres per year. As for the 2019 South African crop, while it is still early, due to weather issues, the crop is expected to be only slightly larger than the 2018 crop.

Finally, a lot has been said recently regarding kernel prices coming out of a particular sheller in Mexico, prices that have done nothing to foster a stable profitable market.  This is not the first time that the US Shelling industry has been faced with this problem.  Hopefully, rather than following like lemmings, the US Sheller’s will keep their cool and wait for history to repeat itself.