Aragon and some high altitude areas of Granada and Almeria are experiencing the death throes of the 2017 almond harvest, in which the price at origin, as already happened in 2016, has fallen when compared to the previous campaign, and even below import prices.
Will the levels of the Spanish almond's price at origin ever be as good as they were at the beginning of 2015? Producers are pessimistic and state that there are more and more hectares dedicated to this production and, therefore, a growing volume, both at the national level and worldwide.
Some also talk about speculative movements, the decline in theft, California's nougat with almonds - of which Spain is the number one importer in the world - or the recurrent price swings, which are now in a downtrend.
The secretary of the Almond Market in Murcia, Manuel Brescane, stated that the price of the common variety, that is to say a standard almond, was 4.16 euro/kg on September 21, i.e. 24.5% below the same week in 2016 (€ 5.51 / kg) and 45.2% lower than in 2015 (€ 7.6/kg).
In La Lonja de Reus, the commune was trading it at 3.9 € /kg on September 25, which is less than the 5€/kg obtained in September 26, 2016 or the 6.85 €/kg on September 28, 2015; and almost as low as the lowest prices, which were recorded in 2012 (3.92 €/kg) and 2011 ( 2.97 €/kg).
The National Nuts Table, which encompasses the Asaja, COAG and UPA Cooperatives and agricultural organizations, as well as the Spanish Association of Producer Organizations of Dry Fruits and Locust beans (Aeofruse), met in late September and will meet again in a few days to find solutions to the decline in prices.
Almond production, below its capacity
They will also revise - predictably downward (to 52,000 or 53,000 tons of almond grain) - the data of the last results of the campaign in June (56.513 tons, 23.21% more than in 2016) because, according to Jose Maria Alcacera (Asaja), the Andalusian harvest has been lower than expected.
Alcacera said this was a decent harvest but that imports had been huge - between 160,000 and 170,000 tons- from California. He also said Spain had to have a more orderly, less atomized supply to meet a very organized demand, as in its current state price formation at source was more complex.
Record harvest in California
The crop has also rebounded in California, which accounts for 81% of the world market with a record 1.21 million tons (+ 5.1% than in 2016), this year, according to data from Almond Board that were presented in August.
According to forecasts, their supply will also increase after undergoing a period of drought and renewing part of their fruit.
Spain, Europe's hub for almonds
According to the general coordinator of the Spanish Association of Almond Peelers (Descalmendra), Jose Luis Balanza, Spain is the hub where value is added to the almonds so that they can be re-exported to Europe. He also said that the product from Californian had the "best performance at the time of transformation."
Balanza said Spain can't set prices due to the hegemony of California and that, even though the Spanish product had more flavor, Asian consumers and in general the international market demand the American product because of the "visual appreciation of the product."
Spanish almond must be standardized
In order to gain competitiveness, he said, "Spanish almonds must be standardized to displace the American product that has defined quality degrees," which is preferred by the industry to make sweets, slices, sticks, flour or pasta.
He also called for an entity that promotes the promotion and commercial work of this product, as there is confidence in the sector's growth, which is has had annual growth of 5% due to the evolution of demand, as this product is considered a superfood.
Prices won't reach 8 euro/kg
The representative of Agricultural Food Cooperatives in the Table, Roger Palau, also said California set the price of almonds and that the current situation was normal in a market where that had its ups and downs. He also added that prices would never to return to 8 euro/kg; as that discouraged consumption.
From UPA, Francisca Iglesias defended an interbranch asked for more transparency before the concentration of commercialization. She also criticized the candy companies that make nougat and Christmas candy for bulking up their purchases in July and camouflaging the Californian almonds in their products, which she considers could constitute consumer fraud.
The dollar / euro exchange rate has also been another factor affecting the price of Spanish almonds and more entries from California, according to Bernardo Funes (COAG), who is also very critical of the candy industry and estimates that the new plantations in Spain will increase the countries capacity to 100,000 tons by 2020/21.