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  • Course Correction Needed in Almond Prices for Sustainability Ravindra Mehta, IFNO, Delhi

    Jul 1st, 2016

    India’s Stat’s:

    A)     1.27 Billion of ever growing Population

    B)     GDP of 1.877 Trillion USD

    C)     GDP Per capita 1498 USD

    India’s anticipated growth has been the talk of the town this year, due to the National Democratic Front Government (Right Wing Party) which came into power with a thumping majority on the promises made on economic growth through corrupt free environment as well as due to the recession in the other major Global Powers like EU, Japan and China.

    The latest data shows that despite weaknesses in developed countries and other emerging Asian markets, India expanded at 7% in the first quarter of FY16 April through June making it as the world’s fastest growing economy when China has shown signs of de-growth. Though India’s number are also below by 0.5% than FY 15 first quarter but the resilience and potential shown by the consumer has made it much stronger destination for investments.

    India, Asia’s third largest economy has been boosted by the consumer spending power rather than any major foreign investments or exports. India always had saving’s economy and the results of the last 60 years of the economic policies are helping in the troubled times.

    India has been one of the important partners to Almond Industry be it American, Australian, Afghan or Iran.... due to its cultural heritage, With over 1.27 Billion Population which is about 17.99% of the world’s population as against China’s 1.360 Billion, USA’s 317.2 Million and a growing Middle Class along with EXTRA disposable income to spend on Luxury/Niche goods preferably on healthy foods.

    India’s 50% population is below 25 years of age or 65% below 35 years, With 74% literacy rate and about 80% of population being HINDU’s with over 42% or half a billion as Vegetarian’s, Almonds become good source of Proteins and snacking.

    India’s Per capita consumption of Almonds is as low as 0.09Lbs against US’s 2 Lbs.

     USA and Australia together account for 90% of world’s production. With India’s participation as 2.4 Million Lbs. Almond Industry in US is valued over 6.5++ billion USD. India stands as the 4th largest importer from US and the largest importer from Australia.

    Market Size- India CY 2009-2014;

    Crop Year   Production in Million Lbs of California CA Exports to India in Million Lbs HK's Re -Exports to India in Million Lbs Australia's Exports to India in Million Lbs Total Imports
    2009                     1363                               89.90                                     1.22                                       32.17                     123.29

    2010                     1579                               106.03                                   8.10                                       14.25                     128.38
    2011                     1959                               118.97                                   13.28                                       23.54                     155.78
    2012                     1827                               125.09                                    3.10                                       29.03                     157.22
    2013                     1949                               102.16                                    3.17                                       41.71                     147.04
    2014                     1867                               123.68                                    2.11                                       47.00 (Est.)             172.79

    In addition to above, unconfirmed sources claim about 10-15 Million Lbs of duty free imports into India from Indian Kashmir via Dubai through Pakistan occupied Kashmir under barter trade agreement.

    With about 200 Million Lbs of Almonds being imported, India today has become one of the largest CONSUMING MARKET other than USA.

    India’s Almond trading hub has been Khari Baoli Market situated in the heart of Old Delhi, with about 85% of the imports destined by 400+ registered Dry Fruits Importers/Traders. Though the import markets/mandi over the years have expanded to various other States like Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. It is expected that once GST (Goods & Services Tax) , new simplified version of local sales tax with uniform taxation for PAN INDIA get implemented by 2016 we would see further decentralisation of Almond or imports market to various small towns.

    Further, the credit for this expansion should also be given to the efforts of Almond Board of California’s marketing programme means of Print & Electronic Media; they have ensured good awareness of Almonds across India.

    Basis 2014 average selling prices, Indian Dry Fruits (Nuts, Figs, Raisins, Apricots, etc) market was valued at INR 21000.00 Cr or about 3.5 Billion USD .

    India’s domestic sales happen between the two Flag hoisting i.e. August 15th (Independence Day) to January 26th (Republic Day) of every year. Most of the India’s religious festivals along with auspicious marriage days fall between these two dates besides the Winter Weather where in Indian consumer spend most of the earnings. Spending also depends on the geo political situations along with the weather pattern being supportive to agriculture and overall economic scenario. Though the fundamental of India economy are strong but is still aligned to global indecencies.

    CY 2014

    October 22nd 2014 was Diwali ( The main Hindu Festival where in the consumption of Nuts & Dry Fruits increases by over 50% as a result of gifting ), The carryover stocks from CY 2013 was literally nil and traders made moolah.

    The first three months of CY 2014 (Aug –Sep-Oct) saw huge shipments to India totalling to about 61.44 Million Lbs as against 41.57 of 2013, 48% High, This was the result of over enthusiasm and spill over of the pre Diwali bullish sentiments, despite the cost being on the higher side, the result as predicted, markets came under tremendous pressure post Diwali and it took about 2 months to balance out the supply demand equation. Post December, markets rallied only one way and since then hasn’t looked back. Prices for Almonds appreciated by over 40% in the domestic market and in lieu of the same .Some demand destruction was expected or anticipated but Indian consumers replied the other way and India landed up importing 21% higher.

    CY 2014 saw prices rallying from 3.00 USD onwards to 3.75 USD/lbs; I think the biggest and sharpest rally ever in the history of Almonds. This rally ensured that everyone in the chain made money. Drought, Port Strikes, & less than estimated crop size have been the reasons behind this rally .India was the most active market throughout the year , which despite peak prices imported 21% higher and other competing markets like China and Europe saw negative growth.

    CY 2015

    Bloom in the month of Feb/March of 2015 was better than expected. It was a flash bloom with nearly perfect conditions. The weather was just ideal as expected but few had concerns over NP’s crop. Subjective estimate of 1.85 Billion was announced on May 6th and Objective Estimate of 1.8 Billion Lbs on 8, 90,000 bearing acres by July 2nd.

    Basis the above estimates the markets in India got certain direction and estimated prices wherein they could gauge the demand for festival season.

    August 2015 has been the most eventful month for Global Economies with China devaluating its currency by over 3% and impacting global markets to react accordingly. Share markets Globally, which are considered as signs of any Economic Growth’s, have been dropping the entire month including  that of US citing China’s negative growth numbers, where as US has demonstrated recovery on its economy with better than expected numbers of employment data etc.. India’s currency fall has not been much despite global worries which shows India’s fundamental strength by virtue of its savings and spending powers.

    Almonds and other niche food commodities are first ones to get replaced or substituted as not being a staple food. Californian prices after Objective estimates rallied to 3.75 USD /lbs on FAS levels but since August 15th the prices have started softening to 3.60$/lbs citing demand destruction globally. EU, China, Japan and Middle East have seen negative growth on spending, so demand at such high prices with depreciating currencies seems farfetched as of now. China as per my understanding buys the cheapest nut in the entire portfolio in that particular year and 2015 seems to be year of Walnuts with US & China having HUGE crops, the prices of in shell Walnuts have already fallen over 40% from last year. In all probabilities China would be substituting good percentage of Almonds & Pistachios with Walnuts.

    Indian markets in the month of August have been subdued due to lack of demand from domestic buyer. The Festival of Diwali in 2015 is on 11nth November about 20 days later than last year so demand for festival is delayed. There is no panic to buy early shipments from US which is putting incremental pressure on growers to correct the prices basis demand and supply. Indian festivals are also the gateway to Global Festivals and India is the first market to pick up the new crop shipments.

    Indian importers are anticipating demand destruction due to high prices and sentimental recession.

    India is a big market for SNACKING of Almonds and INGREDIENTS for Cashews which is reveres in EU and US.

    I anticipate low demand for Gifting of Dry Fruits, as Almonds is the only nut which has caused this imbalance in the costing. Sweets or Mithai’s along with confectionary will get substituted as ingredients for the same are cheaper last year including sugar, wheat flour and Edible Oil.

    CY 2014 saw India importing more % of Kernels than CY 2013, this shows that the FMCG industry has started using manufactured Almonds as one of their ingredients which is only going to rise in CY 2015 and further...

    Californian Industry is also in a fix as the cost of production has gone up due to drought, Further In shell prices for NP varieties are selling with a premium of over 7-10% on Kernels but for which the markets are India and China. In CY 2014 only 219 Million Lbs of In- shells were exported. The only silver lining for US growers is that the crop is less than CY2014 and growers were able to 1.9 Billion Lbs of crop 2014 making good money.  

    Almond prices seem to have peaked out and require course correction for sustainable demand.