Today, the Almond Board of California released the February Position Report at 186.94 mm lbs., which is the second largest February on record falling just short of last year's number by 1.67% (186.94vs.190.13). Domestic shipments followed January's strong number by shipping 8.7% more this February versus last February at 58.41 mm lbs. versus 53.75 mm lbs. and export shipments fell short of beating last year's record by 5.7% shipping 128.54 mm lbs. Ahead of the report it was thought that today's number would be good but not quite a record and that is exactly what we got.
Total Year-To-Date shipments are now at 1.403 bb lbs. versus 1.422 bb lbs. leaving shippers slightly behind last year by a minuscule 1.29%. Domestic shipments continue to grow outpacing last year by 4.15%, while export shipments are falling short of last year's mark by 3.49%. Here are some key shipment figures for export destinations:
India imported 5 mm lbs. more this season versus last February bringing YTD up 2%. Expectations are that India will continue to buy and could surpass last year's total imports as this year Diwali is earlier leaving early needs to come out of 2018 crop. In addition, India won't have Australia looking to sell volumes into India now that China is taking a bigger chunk of the Australian crop leaving most demand coming back to California.
China/HK/Vietnam stepped back after stronger than expected shipments in previous months bringing YTD down 18.29%. News continue to swirl regarding details of trade talks between US and China. As of now, there is no new details released regarding status of the talks.
Western Europe is down again 7% YTD which is unchanged from last month. Hand-to-mouth buying coupled with a good European almond crop explains some of the current almond positions. Expectations are that the hand-to-mouth buying should continue, and demand could stay strong for pollinator varieties moving into new crop.
Middle East added just under 3 mm lbs. versus last year during February increasing their YTD to 4% leaving the Middle East markets pretty well covered for Ramadan despite the currency and duty challenges.
New Sales for the month recorded 149.9 mm lbs. adding another strong sales month to the books for this year's campaign. This is the highest February sales month beating the last record of 143.6 mm lbs. during the 2016 campaign. New sales should definitely help the industry have a solid showing for March shipments, and it also improves the overall commitment position and draws the industry closer to last years uncommitted inventory of 657 mm lbs. versus right now 670 mm lbs. Demand continues to be strong for pollinators and with every passing month the reality of repeating last year's tight transition becomes even more of a reality. The shipped and committed position of the industry is quickly approaching 85%, and it is probably safe to say that the pollinator position for sellers are much further sold compared to their Nonpareil positions. Leaving believing we will see a repeat of last year.
After a less than ideal bloom in some areas, prices seemed mostly steady to firm with the bottom end of the market strengthening against the top end Nonpareil. Even with the rains and cooler temps during bloom the market seemed unfazed and primed to continue moving no matter what it faced. Standard 5% $2.77-$2.80, Cal/CM SSR $2.83-$2.87, Cal/CM Sup $2.90-$2.95, NPS $2.93-$3.00, and NPX $3.00-$3.10. New Crop is still down around a 20 to 30 cent discount to current crop.
Overall, the report should keep the current market groove. California shippers are now sitting at nearly 85% shipped and committed position and seem very comfortable in their positions even with the slim spreads between NP and Pollinators. The market seems set to keep spreads tight and nonpareil could be used to fill any gaps on availability between now and new crop. We should see firm pricing on current crop moving forward while new crop pricing depends on crop opinions and forecasts over the next few months.
If you have any questions or comments regarding today's report don't hesitate to let us know.