Tree Nuts: Almond, Walnut, and Hazelnut Production Forecast To Drop – USDA

As the 2019/20 domestic season is already underway for most tree nuts, anticipated smaller almond, walnut, and hazelnut crops signal reduced U.S. tree nut supplies. In the previous season (2018/19), record- to near-record production of most U.S. tree nuts, along with overall imports and beginning stocks that are on track with recent trends, have led to overall record supplies and generally lower grower prices.

Only pecan and macadamia nut production declined. The marketable quantity of all U.S. tree nuts, led by almonds, walnuts, and pistachios, was estimated at 3.5 billion pounds (shelled basis) in 2018/19, up 9 percent from the previous season and 4 percent above the 2016/17 previous record.

Almond crop expected to be smaller in 2019/20: Another record-setting domestic crop and fairly large beginning stocks together drove down U.S. almond grower prices in 2018/19 (August-July), boosting overall demand for U.S. almonds (table 5). While exports remained almost steady from the 2017/18 high, ending stocks fell to a recent 5-year low, suggesting fairly robust domestic demand.

According to the 2019 California Almond Objective Measurement Report, released by NASS on July 3, a 2.20-billion-pound crop (shelled basis) is forecast for the 2019/20 season, down 4 percent from 2018/19 on lower yields. Bearing acreage continued to rise in 2019 but wet weather during bloom hindered pollination and strong winds damaged some trees and knocked off some nuts, reducing nut set per tree.

The forecast smaller crop and lower stocks carried over from last season should put upward pressure on 2019/20 grower prices.

Walnut production forecast to decline in 2019/20: Large beginning stocks and near-record domestic production boosted overall supplies in the United States in 2018/19 (September to August), driving U.S. walnut grower prices to their lowest level since 2009. Combined with abundant supplies, the low prices are aiding export and domestic demand for U.S. walnuts and reducing ending stocks.

The 2019 California Walnut Objective Measurement Report, released by NASS on August 31, forecast walnut production to decline to 1.26 billion pounds (or 630,000 tons), in-shell basis, down 7 percent from last year on lower average per-acre yield, likely supporting 2019/20 walnut grower prices.

Hazelnut production faces a decline in 2019/20: Following an “on-year” cycle in the alternate bearing tendency of hazelnut trees, Oregon’s 2019 hazelnut crop is forecast 4 percent smaller than the 2018 crop. Huge carryover stocks in 2019/20 (July-June) as a result of last season’s record supplies could ease the upward pressure on hazelnut grower prices this season due to the expected smaller crop.

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Strong demand for U.S. pistachios in 2018/19: Despite bumper supplies in the United States, overall robust demand for U.S. pistachios in the 2018/19 season (September-August) significantly improved grower prices from lows of the past two seasons. Domestic availability and export volume are on track to finish the season at record levels. Thus far, data from the Administrative Committee for Pistachios back strong domestic shipments in the 2018/19 season through July.

For the same period, data from the U.S. Census Bureau show significantly higher exports volumes to date, including Hong Kong, China, and Germany, among the top foreign markets for U.S. pistachios. Despite higher overall shipments, a record-setting domestic crop will likely leave 2018/19 ending stocks at above-average levels. If realized, these large carry-over supplies will help alleviate market impacts associated with an anticipated reduced crop in 2019/20 due to the alternate bearing tendency of pistachio trees.

Lower pecan prices in 2018/19 despite small crop: Domestic pecan production in 2018/19 is at its lowest level in nearly a decade. However, record-setting imports and above-average beginning stocks helped steady overall domestic supplies and, along with slowed exports, drove 2018/19 grower prices down from the previous season.

The lower prices in 2018/19 drove the crop value down from the record $709.2 million in 2017/18 to $425.3 million—the lowest since 2009/10. NASS will release the initial U.S. pecan production forecast for the 2019/20 season in its October 2019 Crop Production report.

Smaller macadamia nut crop boosted prices: Hawaii’s production declined on reduced acreage and average yields, putting upward pressure on 2018/19 grower prices. The smaller crop and higher prices slowed export volumes to several markets, including Hawaii’s top macadamia nut foreign markets—China, Japan, and Canada. Imports, largely from South Africa, Kenya, and Australia, rose to a record high, offsetting the loss in production.

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